Wednesday 7 December 2016

'Axel' would have ended up coaching Ireland - O'Sullivan

David Raleigh

Published 21/10/2016 | 02:30

Anthony Foley and Eddie O'Sullivan celebrate victory over Scotland at Lansdowne Road in 2004 Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Anthony Foley and Eddie O'Sullivan celebrate victory over Scotland at Lansdowne Road in 2004 Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan said Anthony Foley could have gone on to coach the national team.

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Mr O'Sullivan travelled to Killaloe to pay his respects to the Munster legend's family yesterday. Mr O'Sullivan said Axel's sudden death was a "dreadful loss".

"To me he was a phenomenal footballer because of his intelligence around the game," he said. "He wasn't the greatest athlete to play at number eight for Ireland or Munster, but he certainly had one of the most incredible rugby brains I've ever worked with.

"He knew as much as the coach when he was playing on the field, and he was crucial to leadership on the field.

"It's no surprise that after he left the game as a player, he became a coach. For me, I expected he would have gone back to coach Munster, again, in time. I have no doubt he would have coached Ireland as well. It's a dreadful loss."

Mr O'Sullivan said mourners were struggling to find the words to say in comfort to the Munster coach's family. "Everybody is still in shock, it's very hard to know what to say to Brendan [Anthony's father] and the rest of the family," he said.

"Words don't come easily, so it's harrowing to meet the family in such dreadful circumstances.

"You can see the crowds here are just immense. It's something I wasn't looking forward to, but I'm glad I got the chance to shake hands with Brendan. I have known Brendan a long time. It's just a dreadfully sad occasion.

"Everyone is just speechless. But, today is all about Anthony's family and what they are going through, and I can only wish them the best."

Irish Independent

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