herald

Monday 5 December 2016

'He was my soulmate, he will never leave my heart'

Wife of rugby legend Foley describes her undying love and their idyllic life together

Mick Galwey, Peter Clohessy, Keith Wood and John Hayes help to carry the remains of Anthony Foley followed by his wife Olive after the mass. Photo: Irish Independent
Mick Galwey, Peter Clohessy, Keith Wood and John Hayes help to carry the remains of Anthony Foley followed by his wife Olive after the mass. Photo: Irish Independent
Peter Stringer, Frankie Sheehan, Paul O’Connell, Alan Quinlan. Photo: Irish Independent
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Irish Independent
Distraught locals. Photo: Irish Independent
Anthony’s father Brendan reacts as his son’s remains arrive. Photo: Irish Independent
Anthony Foley. Photo: Irish Independent

Grief, pride and an undying love were woven into the brave words of Olive Foley as she paid an emotional tribute to her "true soulmate" and husband, Munster legend Anthony Foley.

Tears flowed freely at his funeral in St Flannan's Church in Killaloe as she told of her last conversation with the Irish rugby hero on the night he died in Paris last weekend.

"My last conversation with him was on Saturday evening. He had been ringing all day because he was a ringer. I rang him back that day and I sat down and we had a few minutes and we chatted," she said.

"And, of course, our chat was about the lads. How the athletics went that morning. It was a lovely conversation. I didn't expect it to be our last."

In a poignant eulogy, Olive spoke of her "idyllic life" at home with Anthony and their two sons Tony (12) and Daniel (8).

"Anthony trusted me with everything," she said. "And I intend to honour that trust and make sure our two adored boys will grow up decent, solid men, full of integrity and honesty, just like their dad.

"From the moment those boys were born, Anthony loved them and adored them.

"I was married to Anthony 17 wonderful years," she said.

Idyllic

"It was an idyllic life. Our home was so happy. It was a haven for all the important things in life.

"We had great plans for the future. But the show will go on. And I'm going to stick to the plan because Anthony is going to be with us in spirit every step of the way.

"Anthony was my true soulmate. We were perfect together. And he will never leave my heart."

She also spoke of how he coped with the enormous stress of filling the role of embattled Munster coach.

"The last two years were very stressful for Anthony but he took that job as head coach and he gave it everything with the same passion that he had when he pulled on his jersey and won two Heineken Cups.

"There were very rough days during the last couple of years. But, despite the pressure and hurt during that time, I've no doubt that Anthony now can smile down knowing that he gave it everything.

"He never held a grudge. When I found it stressful, his advice was always the same. He'd say 'Ol, I was never as bad as they said I was. And I was never as good as they said I was. So read nothing'."

Breaking down, she said of her husband: "I'm handing you over to God now. And our faith will get us through this. Lord, nothing is going to happen to me today that we can't handle together."

Fr Pat Malone said Mr Foley "was a man who lived life with dignity and personal and professional integrity", adding that Olive was his "true love".

Balance

"You complemented each other so well, yin and yang, in perfect balance with each other," he told her.

"He had that great human capacity to sense or notice those who were struggling in one way or another" and he could "reach out to them and include them in a sensitive and caring way", Fr Malone said.

After the funeral, the coffin was carried to the cemetery about half-a-kilometre away on the shoulders of current and former Munster players.

Local sports clubs and schools formed a guard of honour from the church to the cemetery, where the legendary 'Axel' Foley was laid to rest.

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