Anthony Foley funeral: Rugby players past and present gather in Killaloe

Michael Noonan says news of Munster coach’s death sent ripples out from Shannon to Auckland

Anthony Foley’s father Brendan shakes hands with his son’s former teammate  Donncha O’Callaghan outside St Flannan’s Church in  Killaloe, Co Clare. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Anthony Foley’s father Brendan shakes hands with his son’s former teammate Donncha O’Callaghan outside St Flannan’s Church in Killaloe, Co Clare. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

 

The late Munster Rugby coach and Ireland international Anthony Foley was once asked how he would like to be remembered.

His reply, recalled Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, was that he would like to be thought of as a stubborn player.

“I first got up close and personal with Anthony when he was playing for Munster and I was assistant coach at Clermont and he kept knocking us out of the Heineken Cup - he was a real pain in the ass,” said Schmidt with a smile.

“I got to know him well over the last six years and this tragedy is just so hard to comprehend. You keep saying you are going to catch up again and then this happens and you don’t get that chance. It’s just so sad.”

Schmidt one of a a large contingent of mourners from the world of rugby who attended a funeral Mass for Foley on Friday. Former Munster and Leinster rivals shook hands and embraced on the street leading up to the church.

Among the mourners were many of those teammates who, along with Foley, helped Munster put the heartbreak of two Heineken Cup defeats behind them and lift the highest European club rugby at the Millenium Stadium in 2006.

Standing alongside him that day were Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, David Wallace, Alan Quinlan, Frankie Sheehan, Marcus Horan and Mick O’Driscoll - who were all in Killaloe on Friday to pay their respects to their friend and teammate.

Foley’s great friend, neighbour and former Munster and Irish teammate Keith Wood was also present, as were Peter Clohessy and Mick Galwey and former Munster and Ireland coach Declan Kidney.

Old Leinster rivals and Irish teammates Reggie Corcoran, Shane Byrne and Victor Costello were in attendance - as were the current Ireland captain Rory Best and his brother, Simon.

Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray , Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan and CJ Stander were among the members of the current Munster squad who came to pay their respects to their head coach.

Foley’s former Munster and Irish teammate David Corkery, ex-Ireland centre Rob Henderson and past players Tony Ward, Donal Lenihan and Michael Kiernan were also on hand.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by his aide-de-camp, Comdt Lorraine Fahey, while President Michael D Higgins was represented by his aide-de-camp, Col Michael Kiernan.

Among the many figures from the world of politics were Minister for Housing Simon Coveney, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Clare Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was present and said the shock caused by death of the late Munster player and coach had “rippled out not just in Ireland but in the word of rugby from Shannon all the way to Auckland”.