Gerry Thornley on the death of a great servant of Munster Rugby and Ireland, Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley:
With his 43rd birthday due at the end of the month, it’s just too sad for words, too shocking to be believed. A legend alright, and much loved. Our deepest sympathies to his wife Olive, his children Dan and Tony, parents Brendan and Sheila, sisters and Orla and Rosie, and all his extended Munster and Irish family of supporters.
Donal Lenihan in the Irish Examiner…
I always found him a very straight and honest person. As Ireland manager, I remember him approaching me once when he wasn’t being selected for the national team and demanded to know the reasoning for the decision. I told him every time we had seen him play in the build up he had been limping and didn’t look fully fit. He accepted the explanation and confirmed he had an issue with his ankle but had to keep playing in order not to let Shannon down.
That was Anthony in a nutshell. He gave everything to the cause.
Great piece from Tom English for the BBC:
“As a small boy I was sent to games with him,” Foley recalled. “I carried his bag into the changing room at Thomond Park [Shannon’s and Munster’s home ground] and I minded the spot where he used to tog out – I was very protective of it.”
When Foley started playing for Munster in October 1994, he sat in the same spot where his father had sat.
He excelled. He was never the quickest or most athletic back-row forward – far from it – but he had, in Wood’s words, “a sixth sense, an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time”.
He flitted in and out of the Ireland team over the years, a succession of coaches unappreciative of his qualities. In Munster, they loved him unconditionally.
Jerry Flannery on Joe.ie:
“I suppose we were underdogs going into it, with all the talk about Leinster and there was a lot of hype in the media and everything. But it was like Axel pulled us all in before the game and said, ‘today’s the day where you just focus,’ – and I distinctly remember him looking up at us and saying, ‘today is a day for men.’
Exeter Chiefs and Clermont Auvergne pay tribute to Anthony Foley ahead of their Champions Cup clash at Sandy Park. https://t.co/aKwiuAIHCr
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) October 16, 2016
The Daily Telegraph…
Sir Clive Woodward, England’s 2003 World Cup-winning coach wrote: “Shocked and so sad to hear about death of Anthony Foley. A true legend and a man who had total respect of teammates and opposition.”
This from Mick Cleary…
There is more to the Foley story, though, than the shock wave of an unexpected bulletin that besmirched the day. Foley’s demeanour was somehow familiar to us all, an ordinary appearance that masked a special being. That he was not a superstar made the connection with what happened in Paris all the more profound, all the more startling. It was the shattering banality of the moment that hit home.
Axel (for that is how he was known, a nickname from Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop movies) seemed one of us, not a sculpted athlete, gym-honed and set apart. And, yes, why not, the odd pint might have been taken. He was a lump of a man, earthy and empathetic, a man of Munster, without side or frills or ego.
And finally, Thomond Park…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty