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Saturday 10 December 2016

Leinster stars don the red of Munster in touching tribute to rugby legend Foley

Leinster players wearing the red tribute jerseys before their Champions Cup game against Montpellier at the Altrad Stadium Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster players wearing the red tribute jerseys before their Champions Cup game against Montpellier at the Altrad Stadium Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster paid tribute to the late great Anthony 'Axel' Foley by wearing red jerseys printed with the former Munster player's number eight.

Ahead of their Champions Cup game against Montpellier at Altrad Stadium yesterday, the boys in blue warmed up in the traditional colours of Munster.

Many of the Leinster squad played under Foley when he was part of Joe Schmidt's Ireland backroom team.

There was a minute's silence ahead of every Champions Cup game over the weekend, in memory of the Munster player-turned-manager, who passed away in Paris aged just 42 on October 16.

Ulster fans sang a haunting rendition of the Fields Of Athenry moments after the kick-off in their dramatic 19-18 win over the Exeter Chiefs at Belfast's Kingspan Stadium on Saturday.

But Thomond Park was the weekend's focal point. The stadium has played host to some amazing scenes over the decades but perhaps none more so than on Saturday.

A minute's silence was impeccably observed at Munster's sold-out game against Glasgow.

Spectators in the West Stand held up placards that spelt out Foley's nickname 'Axel' along with the number eight shirt, and all Munster's playing shirts had 'Axel' sewn on their red shirts under the club crest.

The Munster Rugby Supporters Club Choir performed There Is An Isle on the pitch, receiving a standing ovation.

Tributes

At the Shannon RFC clubhouse, there was a constant queue of people waiting to sign a book of condolence.

Nearby, the tribute of flags, flowers, jerseys, scarves and children's handwritten messages proved to be a shrine to all.

The mementos came from all over the country. 'Legend', 'Watch over us from above Axel' and 'The last High King of Thomond' read some of the slogans.

The number eight jersey was retired for the day and There is an Isle echoed across Limerick.

It emerged during the week that Foley died from acute pulmonary oedema caused by heart disease. Pulmonary oedema is when excess fluid collects around the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

He was found dead in his room at a hotel in Paris after he failed to show up for a scheduled team meeting on the morning of Munster's game against Racing 92. The game was postponed.

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