Saturday 25 November 2017

A giant falls: Tributes pour in for Munster and Ireland legend Axel

Munster captain Anthony Foley lifts the Heineken Cup in Cardiff in 2006.
Munster captain Anthony Foley lifts the Heineken Cup in Cardiff in 2006.

Tributes poured in shortly after the tragic death of Munster head coach Anthony Foley.

"It is with great sadness that I heard of the sudden death of Anthony Foley, the Munster rugby team's head coach and one of the great figures of Irish sport in the modern era," said President Michael D. Higgins.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny represented the sentiments of a nation.

"It is tragic to lose such a fantastic man at such a young age.

"My thoughts are with his family and his club mates at this awful time."

The legendary number eight was found dead at the team hotel in Paris the night before the Champions Cup opener against Ronan O'Gara's Racing 92.

The match was postponed as all struggled to come to terms with the shocking news.

The death of the 42-year-old sparked a huge outpouring of grief on social media, with fans, players, coaches, teams and stars from other sports walks of life posting messages of sympathy for Foley's family and taking time to pay tribute to the Munster and Ireland legend.

Their Chief Executive Garrett Fitzgerald paid respect to a man he came to know well as his player, captain and head coach.

"Our immediate thoughts are with Axel's family, his wife Olive and his two sons Tony and Dan, father Brendan who is here in Paris with us, mother Sheila, sisters Orla and Rosie and the extended Foley family.

"Anthony was the embodiment of Munster Rugby and dedicated his life to the game he loved. From St Munchin's to Shannon, Munster and then Ireland, Anthony was a true rugby great.

"A very popular figure off the field, he was an incredibly likeable character with a great sense of humour and he lived life to the full.

"Always maintaining his strong family connections to his native Killaloe in Clare, Axel was hugely proud of his community and where he came from."

There was the rugby player and there was the man behind it.

"Forgetting rugby, what I remember about Anthony is crinkling eyes, smi les, a great sense of fun," said former Ulster and Ireland wing Tyrone Howe.

"He would get the giggles and everyone would giggle with him. He was big in every way. Big personality, big sense of humour."

Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan struggled to come to terms with the reality of a life lost.

"It's just hard to get your head around what just happened, a young man in his prime just taken away like that," he said.

"He had this sense of what was important in a game of rugby. He always knew what was needed.

"To coach with someone like Anthony on the field, you were comfortable that this guy was gonna manage the situation and that was probably his greatest attribute, his rugby brain."

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