Thousands pay their respects to ‘true legend’ Anthony Foley

Former Shannon, Munster and Ireland rugby player to be buried in Killaloe today

 

Thousands of people attended the reposing of former Shannon, Munster and Ireland rugby player Anthony Foley in his home village of Killaloe, Co Clare, yesterday.

Gardaí closed the small town to traffic, blocking off all access routes to St Flannan’s Church throughout the eight-hour reposing.

Members of the Munster team who lifted the Heineken Cup for the first time in 2006, under Foley’s captaincy, came together outside the church to share personal stories of the local rugby star. Standing on Main Street, the players laughed, cried and shared a pint or two in memory of their former comrade.

The 42-year-old father-of-two, who died suddenly in Paris during Munster’s preparations for their European Cup match against Racing 92 last Sunday, will be buried today following a midday funeral Mass in the picturesque village. Foley died from a build-up of fluid on his lungs as a result of heart disease.

Munster flag

Large crowds queued outside St Flannan’s Church from about 10am yesterday, and the remains – draped in a massive red Munster flag – were received by family friend Fr Pat Malone at 12.55pm.

Among those present was former Munster and Ireland manager Declan Kidney, whose wife Ann died in Marymount Hospice, Cork, last week.

“Declan only buried his wife last week, which was the last time I met Anthony,” said former Munster captain Mick Galwey.

“I suppose [Declan’s] presence here 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.”

Former Shannon great Gerry “Ginger” McLoughlin, who famously dragged half the English pack over their own try-line during Ireland’s successful Triple Crown campaign in 1982, and who also starred for Munster alongside Foley’s father, Brendan, in their historic win over the All Blacks in 1978, fought back tears as he paid a personal tribute: “It touches your heart that a member of the rugby family has brought us all here today,” he said.

‘No words’

Former All-Ireland winning Limerick hurler Pat Hartigan also honoured Foley: “It’s a very sad and lonely day for the sports community of this country. We have many legends in many sports, but Foley was a true legend for Shannon, Munster and for Ireland. No words can do justice to how sad people feel.”

Two queues formed into the church yesterday – one for people wanting to pay their respects to Foley who lay in an open coffin, and a second queue for those wishing to sympathise directly with Foley’s family, including his wife, Olive, and their sons, Daniel and Tony.

“To me he was a phenomenal footballer because of his intelligence around the game,” said former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan.

“He wasn’t the greatest athlete to play at number eight for Ireland or Munster, but he certainly was one of the most incredible rugby brains I’ve ever worked with.”

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