Munster fans build shrine to ‘Axel’ at Thomond

Shocked supporters visit rugby grounds to pay last respects to revered head coach

Munster Rugby fans place tributes outside Thomond Park in Limerick after the death of head coach Anthony Foley. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Munster Rugby fans place tributes outside Thomond Park in Limerick after the death of head coach Anthony Foley. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Anthony “Axel” Foley’s sudden passing in France sent shockwaves through Limerick, the home of Munster rugby, where fans built a shrine to the Reds’ head coach at the gates of Thomond Park.

Supporters visited the grounds throughout the day leaving Munster scarfs, hats, and jerseys, as well as many floral tributes.

One handwritten note, which summed up the fans’ respect for their former leader, read: “The honesty, the pride, the passion + the glory . . . the embodiment of Munster Rugby. RIP Axel.”

Fans stood in the cold and rain, like they had done on so many other rugby pilgrimages led by their former leader, but this time, they made the trek to pay a final homage to Munster’s first European Cup winning captain.

Second Captains

Dan Mooney jnr of Joseph Street, who put out a call on social media to get fans to the stadium, said: “People were going to come here anyway. In a moment like this, the natural thing to do is to come here and pay your respects and leave a tribute to one of our greatest leaders”

Anthony Foley was as much a hero for his local club Shannon, where he played all 48 matches in the club’s historic four-in-a-row successive All-Ireland Club Championship victories between 1994-1998.

Opening the doors of the clubhouse, beneath the Thomond Park cauldron, past and present players gathered to remember and celebrate one of their greatest ever warriors.

Devastated club president, Noel Healy, said: “I lost one of my dearest friends today, at 42 years of age. I’m still trying to come to terms with it. My deepest sympathies go to his wife Olive and his family and his friends.”

Andrew McNamara, a former team mate, also paid tribute: “I think, like everybody else throughout the rugby world, we are absolutely shocked and devastated. As a player, Anthony was unsurpassed in the Number 8 position for many years. During the glory years he was the leader of the Shannon pack. Incredibly he won five All-Ireland league titles.”

Speaking from the Stade Yves du Manoir, legendary Munster rugby radio commentator, Len Dineen, who flew out of Cork Airport with his friend Foley and the rest of the Munster team to France, said: “I’m devastated, just completely numb.

“We spoke to each other at the airport, and I wished him all the best. He had a tremendous rugby brain and he was a very deep thinker. He was a very proud Munster man and a very proud Irish man.”

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