'It was an idyllic life with my soulmate of 17 years' - Olive Foley's heartbreaking eulogy for Anthony
"Our two adored boys will grow up decent, solid men, full of integrity and honesty, just like their dad," - Olive Foley
Olive Foley spoke of the stresses in the final two years of her husband's life as Munster coach as she fought back tears to give a heart-rending eulogy to her husband, the legendary Axel, at his funeral Mass in Killaloe today.
"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."
She said "He never held a grudge. When I found it stressful sometimes, his advice was always the same. The same line he'd say. 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.'
She said thanks to her wonderful friends and said she had no words to describe their support.
She was grateful to all those who put the "huge logistics operation" of his funeral into action.
Breaking down, she spoke of her husband saying "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. We'll take one day at a time."
She said "Anthony trusted me with everything, with the children, their schooling, the house, everything. And I intend to honour that trust and I'm going to make sure that our two adored boys will grow up decent, solid men, full of integrity and honesty, just like their dad.
"He was a very hands-on dad. Every day after work he'd come in and he'd always sit down and have a coffee. He wouldn't have that much chat but he'd sit there. He was happy enough, he'd just let me ramble on," she said, as murmurs of laughter rippled through the congregation.
"Then he'd say: 'Get the hurleys lads, we're going for a puck. Now I'm going to have to pick it up a notch or two with the hurling. But I'm going to get a hurley and go and do that.
"He just took an interest in everything they did in sports and never missed an auld blitz or a training session'" she said, adding he would also check the boys' homework.
"My last conversation with him was on Saturday evening. He had been ringing all day because he was a ringer. He rang and rang and rang 20 times a day he'd ring.
"Everytime there was a bit a lull he'd decide to ring Olive and he'd say nothing, sure, but I never bothered ringing him back because I knew he'd get me eventually.
"But I rang him back that day and I sat down and we had a few minutes and we chatted. And of course our chat was about the lads. How the athletics went that morning. How the javelin was going with Tony and he had a little chat with him. It was a lovely conversation. I didn't expect it to be our last."
"I was married to Anthony 17 wonderful years.
"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. And we talked about going to Australia next year.
"We talked about everything we were going to do, including changing the kitchen.
"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'" she said.
She went on "Anthony was my true soulmate. We were perfect together. And he will never leave my heart."
She read out a text that she received from a Munster player after his death.
"I got a message from a player and I'm going to read it out because it mean so much to me'" she said.
The text stated that Axel was "the heart and soul of Munster" and the player had "worshipped him" for 10 years and then he had the privilege of having him as a coach.
The player said he was in a really dark place while he had a long injury and he had felt like giving up but Axel never lost faith in him and always checked in and supported him even though the player felt he was "a lost cause."
During her moving speech, she caused a huge burst of laughter in the packed church when she spoke of a special prayer she said on her way to Paris to bring Anthony home.
She recalled: "I am ashamed to say that I said a prayer on the way over in the plane. I said 'Please Jesus, let him have shaved."