Thursday 8 December 2016

Munster prepare to stand up and fight in honour of their fallen general

Published 22/10/2016 | 02:30

Munster Fans Pay Tribute to Anthony Foley, outside Thomond Park. Photo: INPHO
Munster Fans Pay Tribute to Anthony Foley, outside Thomond Park. Photo: INPHO

A community torn asunder by the worst possible sense of loss this week will attempt to somehow pull together as one in Thomond Park this lunchtime when Munster welcome Glasgow Warriors.

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Only six days after their opening Champions Cup game against Racing 92 was postponed in unimaginable conditions, round two will be enveloped in a mood of even more unconscionable circumstances.

Anthony Foley's sudden death, aged just 42, has cast a giant pall over family, club, province, embracing the entire country and beyond yet somehow his former team-mates and colleagues will attempt to honour his memory by making their presence felt on a field where his absence once so keenly mattered.

At every turn, emotion will stalk the squad as it will infuse the sell-out attendance and the 35 steps from the team bus to the dressing-room will seem as if it is the longest, loneliest walk of all.

Munster will seek as much consolation as they can possibly muster in the sense of comfort that the routine of a match-day can bring but, beginning with the fact that Foley will not be present at their regular early-morning lineout session, it seems to defy normal logic that they can do so.

They will be infused with a sense of duty in that they will all, to a man, be trying to perform as best they can for their fallen colleague but even that notion has its pitfalls for, if they don't, are they somehow failing in that intangible task?

Life will offer sport perspective today when, truly, the result is secondary and the normally pedantic minutiae of tackle counts and lineout stats are rendered utterly ignoble by the pervading grief that will drown a cathartic cathedral.

It will be difficult for Glasgow, too; their coach Gregor Townsend has apparently sought counsel from former Liverpool great Kenny Dalglish on how to deal with such a grief-stricken occasion.

CJ Stander will wear number 24 as Foley's erstwhile number eight shirt is retired today.

From 11am, Books of Condolence will be open for all supporters in the Fan Zone under the East Stand and in the supporters' bar.

A commemorative match programme, documenting Foley's life in rugby and the tributes paid to him in recent days, will be on sale with a percentage of proceeds going towards a fund or charitable cause to be agreed upon by the Foley family with support from Munster Rugby. A minute's silence will be observed during which a special tribute to Anthony will take place in the West Stand. Supporters in the West Stand are asked to take their seats no later than 12.40pm in order to facilitate this.

On the pitch before kick-off, in recognising Foley's achievements and lifelong association with Shannon RFC, the Munster Rugby Supporters' Club Choir will perform 'There is an Isle', and soprano Sinéad O'Brien will join the Choir to perform 'Stand Up and Fight'.

In further recognising his life in rugby, young players and students from Shannon RFC and his former school of St Munchin's will form a guard of honour as the teams take to the field.

At half-time the girls rugby team from Anthony's native Ballina/Killaloe will take part in our mini rugby display alongside Bruff, Waterpark and Tralee/Listowel.

After the minute's silence, the match will kick off accompanied by a deafening roar which will seem for all the world like a bleak but defiant yowl to the heavens.

Irish Independent

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