‘I remember Anthony from the early days running around the dressing room’

Donal Lenihan and Len Dinneen were among those to remember the Munster head coach

Exeter Chiefs and Clermont Auvergne respect a minutes silence for Munster coach Anthony Foley before the European Champions Cup, pool five match at Sandy Park, Exeter. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Exeter Chiefs and Clermont Auvergne respect a minutes silence for Munster coach Anthony Foley before the European Champions Cup, pool five match at Sandy Park, Exeter. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

 

You got lucky in this life if ever you came across Anthony Foley.

Late one Six Nations Saturday night in 2002 outside the old Berkeley Court, midway through his 62 caps, Ireland had just battered Wales.

Paul O’Connell’s first run in green. Foley had out-foxed the recent Lions number eight Scott Quinnell to the lovely tune of 54-10. So spirits were high. That is until an overly familiar young lad tried to address him by his nickname. Moss Keane suddenly appeared and Foley’s boyish smile instantly reappeared. They rubbed shoulders, whispering their own private language, before disappearing into the night.

Irish legends from Munster stock who once shared a changing room as man and boy – Moss having played alongside Brendan Foley, including the ‘78 Munster team that beat the All Blacks.

“I got my first cap for Munster with his father, I got my first cap for Ireland with his father,” a sombre, professional Donal Lenihan told Sky Sports loop reporting on this tragic day.

Lenihan’s first cap was Foley senior’s last for Ireland, a 16-12 loss to Australia on November 21st 1981.

“So I remember Anthony right from those early days running around the dressing room in Thomond Park.

“I remember playing for Ireland and seeing this little figure in the corner waving an Irish flag. You obviously take an interest in someone when you seen them from such a young age. To see him progress through the ranks with Munster and getting capped for Ireland and then almost in the perfect symmetry with his father, being on that Munster team that beat the All Blacks in 1978, to see him lift the Heineken Cup for the first time in 2006, that incredible day in the Millennium stadium, was absolutely fitting.”

You got lucky in this life if ever you came across Anthony Foley. On Ireland’s 2013 summer tour of the USA and Canada, Foley, travelling as an assistant coach, strolled into an Irish bar in Toronto one night where the few travelling hacks had set up camp. Axel smiled and informed us we had little chance in the upcoming media versus management soccer match before disappearing into the night.

They say people flocked to Páidi Ó Sé in the same manner they did Anthony Foley. Same spark of divilment, same warm sense of being on the inside when close to this regular Killaloe man who rubbed against greatness with equal ease.

“It’s an empty stadium now,” veteran radio broadcaster Len Dinneen told Newstalk yesterday as Munster supporters, media and the squad at Stade Yves-Du-Manoir in Paris struggled to come to terms with the news. “I know Anthony from way back, from the time he was an outstanding schoolboy with St Munchin’s. Before that I knew Brendan...

“A lovely family, they all live in Killaloe.

“There is a hill there in Killaloe they call it ‘Foley’s Hill’ because Rose, Anthony’s sister, and Orla live there. The mother and father as well.

“A true rugby family.

“Anthony was very loyal,” Len continued. “A hard outside shell and a man of few words but once you got inside that shell you were more than welcome and he trusted people inside that shell.”

Keith Wood, former Ireland captain and Foley’s childhood pal, also hails from the town that borders Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.

“He is unbelievably loyal and he is the smartest rugby player I ever played with,” Wood said in ‘Axel – Munster’s Heineken Cup journey.’ A documentary so named because Munster’s European journey was Foley’s career from those first heavy beatings in France to the Millennium stadium podium in 2006.

“We’re not going to throw in any towel,” Foley told us after Clermont’s victory in Limerick in December 2014, his resilience shining through. “We’ll give it our best shot and make sure we stay fighting. We need to stay true to the badge we wear.”

You got lucky in this life if ever you came across Anthony Foley.

After Munster scraped into the Champions Cup last May with victory over the Llanelli Scarlets, Foley gave the last of what had been far too many excruciatingly honest press conferences as the team he coached with such honesty struggled through their darkest season in recent times.

“I’d like to be coaching here in 20 years’ time. I don’t have a desire to go anywhere else.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.