Thousands queue to pay respects to Anthony Foley in Killaloe

Former teammates join crowds at St Flannan’s Church ahead of Munster man’s funeral

 

Rugby players past and present were among the thousands of people who gathered in Killaloe, Co Clare on Wednesday to pay their respects to the late Munster head coach Anthony Foley.

The 42-year-old father-of-two, who died suddenly in Paris during his team’s preparations for a European cup match against Racing 92 last Sunday, will be buried on Friday following a midday funeral Mass.

Large crowds began to queue outside St Flannan’s Church in the former Ireland international’s home town from about 10am and the masses continued to come through the day and into the evening.

Gardaí had to put in place a comprehensive traffic plan to deal with the numbers arriving in the town.

Foley’s widow, Olive, and their two sons, Tony and Dan, both wearing Munster jerseys, were supported by his father Brendan, himself a former Ireland international, and other relatives outside the church.

Two queues into the church formed: one for people wanting to pay their respects to Foley, who lay in an open coffin, and a second for those wishing to sympathise directly with his family.

The Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, and his deputies Andy Farrell and Greg Feek, and Irish captain Rory Best joined the crowds in Killaloe.

Teammates

Foley’s former teammates for club and country - Keith Wood, David Wallace, Jerry Flannery and Paul O’Connell - joined the crowd and internationals Andrew Trimble, Rob Kearney, Johnny Sexton, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip and Tommy Bowe were also in attendance.

Sexton, wiping away tears, was too upset to speak to the media.

Foley’s former teammates at Shannon Rugby Club were also present.

Former Shannon and Irish rugby great Gerry “Ginger” McLoughlin fought back tears as he said: “It touches your heart that a member of the rugby family has brought us all here today.”

Foley died from a build-up of fluid on his lungs as a result of heart disease.

Members of the Munster team that lifted the Heineken Cup for the first time in 2006, under Foley’s captaincy, at one point came together outside the church today to share their memories of their teammate.

Former Ireland and Munster manager Declan Kidney was also present.

“Declan only buried his wife last week, which was the last time I met Anthony,” said former Munster and Ireland player Mick Galwey. “I suppose (Declan’s) presence here today shows how strong the rugby family is, at times of crisis.

“We’re great to celebrate wins and we get over (match) losses, but I think this puts everything into perspective, and this is what real friendship is about - being there when your friends need you.”

Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins, who was a year ahead of the deceased in secondary school in Limerick, said Foley was an “immense” coach.

“There is a huge outpouring of community spirit all over the country for him...It’s amazing the reach he had,” Mr Collins said.

“He’s a little bit like (the late Kerry footballer) Paudie O’Shea, an iconic sporting figure that everybody knew and loved.”