Munster fans in France remember Foley on first anniversary
Sitting in the French sunshine, the travelling Munster fans could not help but cast their minds back to exactly a year ago in Paris.
That day too they were buzzing with excitement ahead of a new Champions Cup campaign when the terrible news broke - Anthony Foley, their coach, their former captain, their figurehead, had died suddenly aged just 42.
And as they gathered in Place Jean Jaures in Castres yesterday, ready to embark on a new European adventure, the man they called 'Axel' was very much in their thoughts.
"It's very poignant, very emotional," said Mick Kelly, a Munster fan based in Dublin, of the anniversary.
"This day last year, it was a shocking day. We were waiting outside the ground that day and the rumours came first, then the news officially came out. We were just shocked. Nobody knew what to do. We just wandered around Paris like lost souls. It was a terrible day."
Gerry Dunne, from Portarlington, whose late brother-in-law, the legendary Moss Keane, played alongside Anthony Foley's father Brendan on the famous 1978 Munster team that beat the All Blacks, said: "It's a year ago today and it's extremely sad. A guy in full health in the prime of his life, it was a massive tragedy.
"He's mourned by a lot of people because he was an iconic figure. Himself and his dad, they're the hub of what Munster is all about - it's a religion to them.
"It's just left such a massive void, not alone in the Foley family but in Munster rugby. Please God, we'll do him justice today with a victory."
TJ Flanagan, from Tipperary, also had that fateful morning a year ago on his mind.
He said: "Just around this time, we were outside the ground and it was strangely quiet. Then somebody came up to us and told us. It was the weirdest thing you could possibly imagine for a few hours as it sank in. So, you can't help but think about it now.
"Anthony Foley was just always there, he was always part of it from the start, from when Munster went professional. He was such a big loss."
When the time came to take to the pitch yesterday, Munster put in the type of performance Foley would have been proud of, battling to a 17-17 draw on the road against a physical Castres side. And Foley's former charges showed the same spirit he had embodied during his career.
John Wheatley, from Ballinlough in Cork city, summed up the feelings of the fans who made the trip to France.
"He was Munster rugby, heart and soul, he gave everything to it," he said.