Tuesday 17 January 2017

Ross Molony: 'I can't get my head around Axel's death'

Two weeks ago, Anthony Foley was in the Aviva with Munster - and now we are all coming to terms with his loss

Ross Molony

Published 21/10/2016 | 02:30

Ross Molony in action for Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Ross Molony in action for Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile

It has been a very tough week for everyone involved in rugby. We lost a great Irish and Munster role model in Anthony Foley, and it is hard to comprehend that I am writing about him in the past tense. Only two weeks ago he was plotting our downfall in the Aviva - and now a legend of Shannon, of Munster and of Irish rugby is gone.

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As we know, he was Munster captain for that famous first Heineken Cup win in the Millennium Stadium. I have very fond memories of him lifting the cup that year. Odd to say that as a Leinster fan, but even for Leinster fans that seemed like a huge moment for rugby in Ireland.

Anthony Foley after the Heiniken Cup Final vs Biarritz Olympique. Photo: Sportsfile
Anthony Foley after the Heiniken Cup Final vs Biarritz Olympique. Photo: Sportsfile

Everyone knew how hard they had fought for it but came up just short on two occasions previously. Now here was an Irish team beating the best of European rugby. I've read since how looking on and seeing that level of success drove the Leinster players to greater things - so he was inspiring those in blue as much as those in red that day. I suppose that's the nature of the relationship between Leinster and Munster - our biggest rivals on the pitch, yet there's immense respect off it.

I first heard of his passing watching the Ulster against Bordeaux game. A few of us got together in Nick McCarthy's house to watch the games unfold on Sunday. As the announcement was made during the Ulster match, we just couldn't believe it. We were just sitting there in silence at the shock of this devastating news.

The tributes to him as a rugby player have been powerful, but my thoughts are especially with his family and friends during this extremely difficult time. It's hard to even contemplate a game of rugby when something like this happens, but over the week we will try our best to put our focus to matters on the field and the trip to Montpellier. It won't be easy.

I suppose it was important for us to get off to winning ways in the Champions Cup this year. Castres are a quality side, and we knew it was going to be a physical game. I was delighted to get some game time and more European experience. It is important for us to continue winning ways in both competitions, but to also learn from each game played. We can definitely work on pushing on our lead in big games and not leaking late tries.

Ross Molony pictured in training this week ahead of Sunday’s Montpellier clash. Photo: Sportsfile
Ross Molony pictured in training this week ahead of Sunday’s Montpellier clash. Photo: Sportsfile

The RDS is a tough place for any team to travel to and the crowd really make it a special place for us. The support on Saturday was unbelievable and really helped us to push on and secure that all-important bonus-point win. A big thank you to those who turned up and made their voices heard.

With the Montpellier game being on Sunday, we had Monday off at the start of this week. That gave me a chance to catch up on a bit of college work - and I wasn't the only one with that idea. Looking around the library in UCD I saw a few familiar faces - Dan Leavy, Ed Byrne, Rory O'Loughlin and Ross Byrne. At least I had a few mates for a study break!

After the Leinster 'A' team win in Richmond last weekend, it meant that everyone reported back to HQ on Tuesday with a good start under their belts. European weeks are always huge for us, as there is massive excitement that builds throughout the week. It is noticeable at training, too, as the energy and work rate rise another notch. The 'A' team have Nottingham coming to Donnybrook on Saturday for the next round of the B&I, so the whole squad (academy and senior) had plenty to focus on during the week.

Travelling to Montpellier this weekend will be one of our toughest challenges of the season. After their narrow defeat to Northampton last weekend they will be looking to bounce back. Having only lost at home once so far this season, they too have built a 'fortress mentality' at their home ground.

But as I write these words it's difficult to really focus, as this week has been about one man - and it's only fitting to finish with my final thoughts on 'Axel'.

With the week we have had as a rugby community, it really puts matters into perspective - so again, I would like to send my deepest sympathies to his wife, Olive, his two boys, the Foley family and the Muster team. May he rest in peace.

Irish Independent

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