Foley remembered at Munster re-run of 'Miracle Match'
Irish rugby icon Anthony 'Axel' Foley was remembered in a beautiful tribute by the Maori All Blacks team ahead of their revenge match against Munster at Thomond Park last night.
Foley's sudden death at the Munster team hotel in Paris last month continued to cast a trojan outpouring of grief among both sets of supporters as battle clouds descended overhead the Limerick rugby colosseum.
The All Blacks have a chequered history at Thomond Park. They came here in 1978 and swiftly returned to New Zealand with their white feathers between their legs. That historic day still replays in the minds of every Munster fan who watched their local heroes slay the Goliath of world rugby. And, memories of the 2008 "miracle match" also stirred up the home town fans as they reminisced over Munster stars Rua Tipoki, Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi and Jeremy Manning lighting up the Thomond cauldron during their remarkable home-town haka in front of their fellow Kiwis.
Fans gathered early on at The Strand Hotel where the Maori team had based themselves for the previous five days. The party following Ireland's historic victory over the All Blacks last week in Chicago continued unabated.
Shane Ring from Cork, was in no doubt home fans would be celebrating a second Kiwi defeat. He said: "It's going to be very special, and follow on from last week's Irish victory. It's always competitive at Thomond Park, even if there is no prize. Our boys are wearing the Munster shirt and they will beat them."
Derry native Phill Doherty, who wore the red in support of his Ulster rivals, was less confident about a home victory: "I'm hoping for a good show. I'm sort of worried that it might be payback for last week. It's my first trip to Thomond Park. I'm looking forward to the Munster roar."
However, the New Zealand club were intent on spoiling the party. Speaking to the Irish Independent, Maori winger James Lowe added it was as "a huge occasion" for the side.
"Obviously we're here to do a job, but we respect what Munster bring and everything they have been through," he said.
Retired Kiwi, Paddy Pearson, now coaching in Sligo said: "This is payback for last week's result. We've been getting a fair bit of stick; it's been pretty rife so it would be good to get a bit of a leveller back.
"I've been copping it pretty hard this week, so it will be good to win."