Monday 24 October 2016

'Something's wrong when a father buries his son. That's truly dreadful' - Keith Wood on the death of Anthony Foley

Published 17/10/2016 | 10:02

Anthony Foley and Keith Wood celebrate their famous victory over Toulouse in 2000
Anthony Foley and Keith Wood celebrate their famous victory over Toulouse in 2000
Keith Wood and Anthony Foley embrace after beating Scotland in 2000

Close friend and former Munster and Ireland team mate Keith Wood believes the country has been shocked at how Anthony Foley has been lost in his prime.

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Wood, a childhood friend of Foley's, returned to Killaloe last night to offer his condolences to the family of the Munster head coach who died suddenly of a suspected heart attack in Paris yesterday as the province prepared to play Racing 92.

The global rugby community is in mourning today but his thoughts were with the Foley family at this tragic time.

He was very close to his father Brendan who was a part of the Munster team that famously beat the All Blacks in 1978.

"There's something wrong when a father buries his son. That's truly dreadful," he told Today with Pat Kenny on Newstalk.

"For me you think of Brendan, Sheila, Rosy and Orla, his two sisters, but it's Olive his wife who was so perfect for him and his two boys who at a young age have to go on without their father. It's heartbreaking.

"I managed to just get back in late last night and I called into the house. It's just wrong. It just doesn't make any sense.

"It brings the sense of mortality very close. I think there is a huge shock around the country for a young man to fall in his pomp but also the fact that he would have touched a huge amount of lives.

"One of the recurring themes that you hear, there is a strange humanity that comes through it. My phone has hopped and it's been interesting about all the texts that have come in because they are coming in from people who knew that he and I were friends.

"He touched a huge number of people."

Foley enjoyed success throughout his career with his school St Munchin's, Shannon, Munster and Ireland.

Read more: Tony Ward: Let there be no doubt about it - this modest man was a legend of both Munster and Irish rugby

"Everywhere he played and did anything, there was a trophy in his hand at the end of it because it wasn't only that he was a good player, he knew how to win," he added

"He loved Shannon with everything. He thought it was an incredible place.

"Recognition came after with Munster and Ireland and he had an incredible career."

Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan revealed this morning that he believed Foley was on the patch to becoming Ireland head coach and Wood said that it was clear that the 42-year-old had a knack for it from a very young age.

"He was a one-club man. He played for Munster his whole life and that is pretty extraordinary.

"He didn't speak a huge amount but everything he said was perfect. I played with him for Munster for a while and I played with him for Ireland for a while.

"When I was with Ireland, I'd nod at him to say something. Sometimes you just needed a point of clarity and in rugby, Antony knew what clarity was, he knew the right thing to say at the right time, he knew the right thing to do at the right time.

"For me, it was a natural thing to get into coaching because this guy was a coach since he was 13 years of age."

Read more: A passionate coach who was also a star for club, province and country, he had rugby in his blood

It's clear from the tributes pouring in from former team mates that Foley was a jovial character and Wood was adamant that those happy memories should be shared in the tough days to come.

"Dominos pizza gave a pizza to whoever got the first try at Thomond Park and Foley got a hat-trick just to make sure. He hadn't scored for a while.

"He had a wicked, dry sense of humour and the fact that we are speaking about him in the past tense is unbelievably surreal.

"I don't know how long it will take for the funeral, these things take a period of time. It's trying to get those nice memories and trying to smile if that's at all possible."

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