SIR – It can be very true we don’t fully appreciate something or someone until they are gone, like the sudden death of Munster coach, Anthony Foley, aged 42. Those who knew him well were very shocked at his death.
Tributes from the world of rugby and other sports continued for days. A thousand fans greeted his remains from France at the home of Munster rugby at Thomond Park in Limerick on a dark evening with lit candles and respectful silence; the Shannon RFC song ‘There is an Isle’ and warm applause.
Next day 20,000 people went to his removal to the church in Killaloe in Co. Clare from his nearby home from 1pm to 8.30pm. Strong rugby men shed tears at the death of a man they knew and liked. Someone wrote it was like a State funeral.
Thousands again attended his funeral, where they heard of a loving husband and dad. His wife, Olive, gave a lovely eulogy when she spoke too of the very tough times for him as coach when Munster were not playing well.
Munster are showing signs of playing better and the experienced Rassie Erasmus was engaged to help share the management. Anthony Foley went to the 50th birthday party of his friend, and fellow rugby great, Mick Galwey. They said he was happier and relaxed.
He died a week later in his sleep the night before Munster were to play their opening European Cup Championship game in France against Racing 92, which was then postponed.
He was first to those who loved him; a husband, dad, son, brother and good friend. He played on two Munster teams who won their first European Cups in 2006 and 2008 coached by Declan Kidney. I remember those years and they were magic.
He won Triple Crowns with Ireland and played in the Lions. He liked helping children and young people to be in sports and was an umpire at a hurling match for the under-11s shortly before he died.
A day after his funeral the Munster players who were pallbearers at his funeral beat the well regarded Glasgow Warriors 38-17. He would have been proud of them after an emotional week.
People who paid their respects to him or read of this sad event won’t forget. Thomond Park had never seen anything like the respect shown on Saturday with his and his wife’s two boys, Tony and Dan, warmly included by the team.
I think it was a credit to everyone who organized the tributes. It was sad and nice at the same time.
For non-Munster team aficionados the Munster rugby song ‘Stand up and Fight’ is sung to the Toreador song from ‘Carmen.’ May he rest in peace.