Wednesday 29 March 2017

'Our boys will grow up full of integrity, just like their dad'

At Anthony Foley's funeral Mass in Killaloe, Co Clare, his wife Olive Foley gave an emotional eulogy for the man she loved. Here are edited extracts of that heartfelt tribute

The coffin of Munster rugby coach Anthony Foley is carried from St. Flannan's Church after his funeral service in Killaloe Photo: Reuters
The coffin of Munster rugby coach Anthony Foley is carried from St. Flannan's Church after his funeral service in Killaloe Photo: Reuters

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 sometimes, his advice was always the same. The same line. He'd say: "Oh, I was never as bad as they said I was. And I was never as good as they said I was. So read nothing."

I want to thank our wonderful friends, but there are no words to describe their support and I am grateful to all those who put together the huge logistics operation of his funeral into action.

Anthony, I am 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.

I am ashamed to say that I said a prayer on the way over [to Paris to bring Anthony home] in the plane. I said: 'Please, Jesus, let him have shaved!' *laughter*

Thank you for all the tributes that were paid: passing Thomond Park, passing his beloved Saint Munchin's, and the drive from Limerick to Killaloe. What a homecoming he got in Killaloe, the candles and the prayers. Though he would have absolutely hated the fuss, he would also have been very proud.

Anthony was full of surprises. Every day of my life he gave me some surprise of some description. But it wasn't really what he said, it was what he did. His kindness was subtle.

There is so much we are going to miss. I can't even get into it. But, it's fair to say, that his loss to me and Tony and Dan, Sheila and Brendan, and Rosie and Orla will be huge.

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. 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, and he would also check the boys' homework.

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

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 me.

Every time there was a bit of 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.

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

I got a [text] message from a player and I'm going to read it out because it means so much to me.

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.

Sunday Independent

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