Anthony Foley’s wife remembers ‘idyllic life with her soul mate’

Olive Foley pays emotional tribute to late Munster coach at church in Killaloe

The remains of Munster and Ireland rugby legend Anthony Foley arrive for funeral mass in St Flannan’s Church in the village of Killaloe, Co. Clare. Video: Bryan O’Brien

 

Anthony Foley’s widow told the congregation at his funeral Mass she intends to make sure their two sons “grow up decent, solid men, full of integrity and honesty just like their dad.”

Olive Foley fought back the tears as she looked down over his coffin bearing Ireland and Munster caps at St Flannan’s Church in Killaloe, Co Clare, to tell of the man she married some 17 years ago and the life they shared together with their sons, Tony and Dan.

Paying tribute to everyone for their support since Foley died suddenly in a hotel in Paris as Munster prepared to play Racing 92, she said that the homecoming that the people of Killaloe, Limerick and Munster had given him would have made him so proud.

“The homecoming that he got when we brought him back to Killaloe with the people and the candles and the prayers – it was just beautiful . . . he would have absolutely hated the fuss,” she said to laughter and applause before adding “but he would have been very proud”.

Players from the province past and present formed a guard of honour inside the church grounds. Former Ireland internationals Ronan O’Gara, Brian O’Driscoll, Peter Stringer, David Wallace, Tony Ward, Marcus Horan, Peter Clohessy, Paul O’Connell and coaches Joe Schmidt and Declan Kidney were in attendance.

Hundreds of other mourners including representatives of the Taoiseach and the President packed into the church and surrounding streets.

‘Full of surprises’

She said that Foley was “full of surprises” and not a day went by when he did not surprise her – more by what he did than what he said and he was an extraordinarily kind husband and father and his loss to their sons would be “huge”.

“Anthony trusted in me in almost everything – the children, their schooling, the house – everything and I intend to honour that trust and I am going to make sure that our two adored boys will grow up decent, solid men, full of integrity and honesty just like their dad,” she said to loud applause.

Recalling the great interest he took in their sons, Olive recalled their last phone conversation when they spoke on Saturday night on the eve of Munster’s match, never once thinking it would be their last conversation.

“Anthony would be ringing all day because he was a ringer – he would ring 20 times a day – I think every time there was a lull in what he was doing, he’d say ‘I’ll ring Olive’ – now he might say nothing but I never bothered to ring him back because he would always ring you back.

“But I rang him back that day, Saturday and we had a chat – I had a few minutes and our conversation was about the two lads – how the athletics went that morning and now the javelin went for Tony – it was a lovely conversation – I didn’t expect it to be my last.”

Stressful

Olive acknowledged that the last few years when Anthony had been Munster head coach had been stressful for him and for her but he had never borne a grudge against anyone who was critical of him and he had never let it upset him.

“The stones on the road know that the last two years have been very stressful for Anthony and Munster – but he took that job as head coach and he gave it everything with the same passion as when he put on his jersey and won two Heineken Cups,” she said.

“There were rough days during the last few years but despite the pressure and hurt during that time . . . he never held a grudge. When I found it stressful some times, his advice was always the same –‘ I was never as bad as they said I was and I was never as good as they said I was – so read nothing’.”

Acknowledging the importance of her faith in helping her cope as well as the support of family and friends, Olive recalled their “idyllic life” together in Killaloe.

“I was married to Anthony for 17 wonderful years – it was an idyllic life – our home was so happy, a a haven for all the important things in life. His values were perfect – we had great plans for the future and we talked about going to Australia next year and all the different things we were going to do.

“I wanted to change the kitchen but the show will go and I will stick to those plans because Anthony is going to be with us in spirit – every step of the way . . . they say soul mates are eternal friends and if so, Anthony is my true soul mate – we were perfect together and he will never leave my heart.”