Tributes from players, teams and fans from all over the world have been pouring in for Munster and Ireland rugby legend Anthony Foley, who passed away aged 42, in Paris on Sunday.
Munster fans have been leaving flags and scarves at the gates of Thomond Park for the former rugby coach while the rugby community and wider public continue to mourn his sudden death.
Speaking to the Limerick Voice, vice-chairperson of the Munster Rugby Supporters Club Linda Molloy said:
“There was just shock and disbelief when we heard the news. Some of the committee [members] are very good friends with him, and they’re all just shocked by what has happened.”
Anthony who was also known as ‘Axel’ made his Munster debut in 1995 and represented the province more than 200 times, captaining them to Heineken Cup glory in 2006. From early on in his career, Mr Foley demonstrated several characteristics that ensured he would enjoy a long and prosperous career with Munster rugby.
Ms Molloy believes that Mr Foley has left his mark on the game of rugby and most notably every team that he lined out for during his career:
“He had a rugby brain, and a never-say-die attitude and he just brought steeliness to the team and he just brought something to the team that not many others had.
He’s already written himself into the history books for St Munchin’s, Shannon, Munster and Ireland, between transitioning from the amateur era to the professional game,” she said.
Mr Foley was also remembered at the Limerick City and County Council Metropolitan District meeting on Monday, with his former Munster under 20 teammate and Fianna Fail Councillor James Collins paying a poignant tribute to ‘Axel’:
“He was a winner and if you were on his team you were a winner too. He was a great guy, player and coach who was respected by everyone across all sporting codes,” Cllr Collins said.
Fine Gael Councillor Daniel Butler described Mr Foley as a “father to a lot of young players”, while former Ireland under 19 international, Labour Councillor Frankie Daly referred to him as an “honest man and a champion of Limerick.”
Cllr Butler also referred to Billy Keane’s quote which summed up the Munster great’s selfless nature. “Honest, fearless, loyal and funny – for Foley it was never about ‘me’, always about ‘us’.”
Mr Foley’s family released a statement on Monday afternoon thanking fans and the media for the huge amount of support they have received:
“Our anguish at the sudden loss of Anthony is bottomless. We have been plunged deep into an incomprehensible darkness and sense of loss that we must work our way through over the coming days, weeks, months and years. We know, too, that his sudden death has brought the rugby worlds of Shannon RFC, Munster, Ireland and much further afield crashing down. You have lost a former player, coach, friend and all-round inspiration – your and our hero both. We mourn his loss together. We again wish to thank everyone for their support; it will help carry us through these darkest days,” the statement read.
Mayor of Limerick Kieran O’Hanlon opened the book of condolences for Anthony Foley at City Hall, in a ceremony which was attended by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan, as well as Shannon R.F.C President Noel Healy and St Munchin’s principal David Quilter.
Books of condolences are open for the public to sign at Limerick City and Council offices in Dooradoyle, at Thomond Park, the University of Limerick and can also be signed online at: www.limerick.ie/council/anthony-foley-book-condolence
Watch Limerick Voice Facebook Live video of the Mayor of Limerick City opening book of condolences for Anthony Foley in Limerick County Council on Monday here.