Thursday 25 May 2017

Tim Allnutt: Death of a legend puts troubles in perspective

Supporters’ tributes to the late Munster head coach Anthony Foley adorn the gates of his beloved Thomond Park this week. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Supporters’ tributes to the late Munster head coach Anthony Foley adorn the gates of his beloved Thomond Park this week. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Tim Allnutt

While last Saturday's win over Toulouse had us riding the crest of a wave, Sunday brought an incomprehensible sadness to everyone in rugby, following the death of Anthony Foley.

Like everyone that knew Anthony or the thousands of people that looked up to him as a player and coach, I was left in utter shock when I heard the sad news on Sunday. My thoughts, and the thoughts of everyone at Connacht Rugby, go to his family and friends, who have lost such a great guy.

We all get caught up in wins, losses and everyday issues in our own lives, but when you hear of something like this happening, all our small problems are put into perspective straight away.

Anthony has been a constant figure in Irish rugby since I arrived on the scene here and I came up against him on a good few occasions as a player. He was a real tough competitor on the field, he never gave you an inch and it was clear that his team-mates always followed his example in the battle where he put his rugby brain to great use.

Since he retired from playing and entered into the coaching game, I got to know him a bit better off the field, and we had a good few chats about the game. He was genuinely interested in what we were doing here in Connacht and was always gracious in victory and defeat.

As an example of how the rugby world has been affected by his death, I was speaking with my parents in New Zealand earlier this week and they had heard the news and were full of questions about Anthony. He will be truly missed from the game.

It is an extremely difficult time for everyone involved in the Munster organisation and we are there to offer our support to them in any way possible. After paying our respects to Anthony in Killaloe yesterday, we now travel up to Dublin and then to Parma for our Round 2 Champions Cup game.

This will be a totally different Zebre side from the team that were beaten by Wasps last weekend.

And we all have a very recent warning to heed from our memory banks. A few weeks back Zebre really put it up to us in the game that fell foul to the storm, so we are fully aware that home and away, you see a very different Zebre. We know we still had all of the second half to rescue that game, but in the first 40 minutes they were on the money and we'll have to be ready for that intensity again.

Confidence

But we head to this game with some real confidence in our own game. It has been a good few weeks for us with wins over Ulster and Toulouse in the space of eight days. On the back of a lot of hard work in training, it was really satisfying to see how the boys closed the game out on Saturday.

A big thanks has to go out to our support at the Sportsground, which was amazing last weekend. When the place rocks like it did last Saturday the players feed off that buzz from the crowd, and it must be one of the best places to play.

The fact that it was a beautiful evening, a big team were in town and that the rugby was easy on the eye all fed into a wonderful occasion. But all the team, the marketing team, the events' team, the groundsmen - everyone - all made it a European night to remember for us.

I've spoken to a few people on the mornings after our last couple of wins, and there was still a buzz around the place after those two victories. The fact that people are buying into the way we play the game is giving them a lift and is a great feeling.

I've been watching the games from both the sidelines and from the crow's nest box on the old stand side in the last couple of seasons, and I often wonder what it must be like to go along and watch Connacht as a supporter now. Meet up with your mates, grab a beer or two and then go into the Clan Stand or the terrace and watch the team in that atmosphere.

Don't get me wrong, I would not swap my job for anything - I love what I get to do every day with Connacht - but I imagine it must be a great place to watch your favourite team.

The aim is to have plenty of more nights like that in the next few months and years, but right now we need to focus everything on Zebre and winning that game. I'm sure they'll be fully loaded for this one, but we're prepared to make the hard yards on the road to the win.

Irish Independent

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