Foley widow leads send-off for Irish rugby great

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 10:02

REACTION: Anthony Foley's widow Olive recalled the last time she spoke to her husband as she led the farewells to the late Munster and Ireland rugby legend on Friday.

Foley, a formidable No.8 who skippered Munster to the 2006 European Cup title and later became their head coach, was found dead in his Paris hotel room last Sunday hours before a European clash with Racing 92.

He died in his sleep aged 42 of a heart disorder, throwing the rugby world into grieving.

Thousands of friends, family, rugby stars and well-wishers gathered in the small Irish town of Killaloe for his funeral, where Olive - Foley's wife of 17 years - spoke from the altar of St Flannan's church after mass.

Flanked by their two young sons, Tony and Dan, she drew spontaneous rounds of applause from a rapt congregation. A large crowd also gathered outside, some sobbing.

"I'm going to make sure our boys will grow up decent, solid men, full of integrity and honesty, just like their dad," she said, recalling how her husband had "loved and adored" his sons.

With a dash of humour, Olive described how her husband - renowned as a man of few words - would call her "20 times a day even though he had nothing to say".

She remembered his last call, from Paris on the Saturday evening before he died, "never expecting it would be my last" and how they had made so many plans for their future together.

And she described how she and the family had brought his body home from France.

"I said a prayer on the way over, 'Please, Jesus, let him have shaved!" she said, drawing laughs from mourners.

Afterwards, Munster captain Peter O'Mahony and former skipper Keith Woods were among those who carried Foley's coffin to a graveyard.

Crowds lining the streets for the short, final journey to the graveyard applauded. Others cried.

In Foley's favourite watering hole, Reddan's pub, in Killaloe'’s main street, final preparations were being made for a very busy evening. 

Foley's jerseys from Munster and Ireland line the walls there.

"These are all original, no replicas here," owner Pat Reddan told AFP.

"This place will be jammed tonight but you would like to be making your money in another way."

The talk soon turned to Saturday's encounter with Glasgow at Thomond Park, with Munster supporters wondering how players who experienced the emotion of the day could possibly focus on a match less than 24 hours away.

But if Munster do lose, as one man put it: "In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter."

Agence France-Presse