Anthony Foley 1973 2016


It was with great sadness that we learned of the sudden passing of Anthony Foley on Sunday morning. Aged 42 his time had come far too soon.

Like the global rugby world we were stunned and saddened in equal measures at this devastating news.

Axel was one of a kind, his achievements on the field speak for themselves, but it is perhaps his off-field demeanour that warrants most praise.

Anthony was the most selfless character you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. I was fortunate to have met him on many occasions and indeed interviewed him many times throughout his life as a player and a coach.

I remember one occasion back in the days before digital voice recorders, yours truly had a Dictaphone hooked up to the handset of a telephone for carrying out interviews. Axel was at the height of his playing prowess, a very busy man who was dealing with the pressures of professional rugby and the constraints that has on a player.

Munster PRO at the time Pat Geraghty, kindly organised a telephone interview for me with the great Foley. I called, he answered, I set up the recording equipment and we spent about 40 minutes chatting about all parts of his playing life.

He spoke passionately about his beloved Shannon and the virtues of playing with your mates in the club game. He firmly believed that the strength of Irish Rugby would be found in the clubs despite the fact that professional rugby had stolen most of the club limelight.

We spoke at length about his entire career, he was so giving of his time and a hugely impressive character. It was a fantastic interview, so imagine my horror when I went to replay it and noticed it had not recorded!

Not sure what to do, the editorial deadline was fast approaching and I had nothing except my recollections of the conversation, only thing to do was call him back.

I called the number... Axel answered and I explained my rookie mistake. Fully expecting to be told to take a run and jump... there was a guffaw of laughter down the phone. Once his giggles subsided, his response was a simple “no problem we can do it again.”

That was my first encounter with Axel, I know the demands on him were huge, yet he was still so considerate with his time and I suppose that is one of the traits of his character that endeared him to everyone he met.

I got to meet and chat with Axel many times since that first interview although it probably took about 10 years for him to stop reminding me to double check the recorder each time we spoke!

A man of huge integrity, he is a glowing example of what a professional sportsman should be.

As a player and a coach he only ever wanted what was best for the team that much was indisputable. In these days of slick polished response, Axel often gave a brutally honest assessment of his team’s performance, he never sugarcoated things and you knew if he had to say something negative about his team’s performance, it was hurting him much more than it could any individual in the team.

A massively talented player and coach, his imprint on Shannon, Munster and Ireland is indelible.

Anthony is survived by his wife Olive, their two sons Dan and Tony and the wider Foley family.

Our thoughts are with them and the wider rugby community at this most tragic of times

Report by Manus Lappin