Saturday 21 April 2018

'When we got the news, all the players stayed together': Munster stars left reeling by Anthony Foley's tragic death

Alan O'Keeffe

Munster out-half Ian Keatley spoke of the shock and grief in the team room in Paris as the players tried to absorb the shock of Anthony Foley's death.

"We knew something must be wrong when Axel didn't show up for the line-outs. That doesn't happen. When we got the news, all the players stayed together in the team room," said Ian (29).

The team flew back to Ireland on Sunday evening with Brendan, Anthony's father, on board the aircraft, he said, for the sombre journey home.

Read more: 'Our anguish is bottomless' - Anthony Foley's family thank fans for support in these 'darkest days'

"It was tough on the players but his father was there too and my thoughts were always with his family.

"At the end of the day, rugby is the last thing on our minds. It's all about Anthony and his family now.

"Most people just see the 80 minutes on the pitch. That's all they judge us on.

"We're with each other every day and we try our hardest. Anthony epitomised that by working tirelessly because he wanted Munster to win so badly.

Read more: 'Why Anthony Foley? Why not a lesser being? Someone without kids' - Former team mate on the 'mind-boggling' tragedy

"I've known him seven years.  I remember I had a poor performance last year and, it epitomised Anthony that he rang me up after the game and invited me out to his house the next day. We called out to his house and he had a pizza oven out in his garden.

"His wife and kids were there and Keith Wood and his family there and we were just having a pizza. He treated me normally even though I had a poor game


"They are the things that people don't see. He had a great heart," he said.

"This year is not going to be easy for the team. There is a big hole there'" he said.

He said the team talks given by Anthony always started with him turning on his laptop and the screen saver showing a photo of his children.  It was sad that photo will no longer be part of the team meetings, he said.

Munster squad member and Shannon player Duncan Casey (25) said "I worked with Axel a long time.  He was my under-20s coach and coached me with the Munster As and coached me on the senior side. He gave me my opportunity with the senior side.

"It's just tragic and there's a real sense of shock. It's very hard to process.

"All of our thoughts and all of our efforts are with Olive and the family.

"He was terrific to me when I came out of sixth year in school and I was playing with Munster Under -20s. I had an excellent working relationship with him and a great personal relationship from then on.

"He was a great guy who is very sorely missed," he said.

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