Sunday 17 December 2017

'The whole rugby family of Ireland is in mourning' - Munster coach Anthony Foley has died suddenly in France

Anthony Foley passed away in France
Anthony Foley passed away in France
Anthony Foley passed away in France
Anthony Foley Picture: Sportsfile

Ger Keville & Louise Kelly

Munster coach Anthony Foley (42) has died suddenly in France.

Munster were in Paris to play Racing 92 in the Champions Cup today and that clash has been postponed.

The IRFU confirmed the news today.

"It is with deep regret that the Irish Rugby Football Union and Munster Rugby must advise of the passing overnight of Munster Rugby head coach Anthony Foley, at the team hotel in Paris," read a statement from the IRFU.

"Munster Rugby management are liaising directly with Anthony's family and will provide them with any assistance and support required.

"The IRFU and Munster Rugby pass on our deepest sympathies to all of Anthony's family and friends and ask for privacy for the family at this sad time.

"As a mark of respect to Anthony and his family and and to support players, management and staff, Munster Rugby have requested that today's match against Racing 92 be rescheduled.

"Munster Rugby thank Racing 92, EPCR, broadcasters and partners, and the many fans who travelled to Paris for their understanding and support at this time."

Rugby commentator Tom McGurk said: "It was a great leader - he was the heart and soul of that Munster team. It's absolutely shocking.

"A great great Munster rugby family - his father Brendan played for Ireland, his sister Rosie played for the Ireland women team.

Irish players, l to r, Peter Clohessy, John Hayes, Kevin Maggs, Denis Hickie, Frank Sheahan, Anthony Foley and Justin Fitzpatrick celebrate Ireland's win over France in the Six Nations Rugby International, France v Ireland, Paris, France. Picture credit Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE*EDI*
Ireland No.8 Anthony Foley practices his hurling skills after squad training. 2003 Rugby World Cup, Irish squad training, Central Coast Grammar School, Terrigal, New South Wales, Australia. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE *EDI*
Ireland players Reggie Corrigan, right, and Anthony Foley, celebrate at the end of the game.
Ireland's Anthony Foley and head coach Eddie O'Sullivan celebrate victory over Scotland
Munster captain Anthony Foley and coach Alan Gaffney lift the cup. Celtic Cup 2004-2005 Final, Munster v Llanelli Scarlets, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Munster players, from left, Marcus Horan, Anthony Foley and John Fogarty after the game. Heineken Cup Final, Munster v Biarritz Olympique, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Munster captain Anthony Foley makes his way out onto the pitch before the start of the game against Glasgow Warriors for the last time on home soil. Magners League, Munster v Glasgow Warriors, Musgrave Park, Cork. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Anthony Foley, Munster, goes over for his try against Glasgow Warriors despite the tackle of Dougie Hall. Magners League, Munster v Glasgow Warriors, Musgrave Park, Cork. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Anthony Foley in action against Italy. Ireland v Italy, Friendly Rugby International, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture Credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Ireland players, from left, Kevin Maggs, Anthony Foley, Keith Gleeson, Simon Easterby, Paul O'Connell and Malcolm O'Kelly celebrate in the dressing room after victory over England. RBS 6 Nations Championship 2003-2004, England v Ireland, Twickenham, England. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Munster players, from left, Peter Clohessy, Mick Galwey, Marcus Horan, Anthony Foley and Alan Quinlan (capped) celebrate at the final whistle victory over Stade Francais. European Rugby Cup Quarter-Final, Munster v Stade Francais, Thomond Park, Limerick. Rugby. Picture credit; Ray Lohan/SPORTSFILE
Munster players from left, Eddie Halvey, Anthony Foley and Keith Wood celebrate their victory over Toulouse. European Rugby Cup semi-final, Toulouse v Munster, Stade Lescure, Bordeaux, France. Picture credit; Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE....*(EDI)*
(L to R) Anthony Foley, Dion O'Cuinneagain, Frank Sheahan, Peter Stringer and Jason Holland pictured at the end of the game against Stade Francais. Stade Francais v Munster, Heineken European Cup semi-final, Stadium Lille Metropole, Lille, France. Rugby. Picture credit; Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE *(EDI)*

"He went from captaincy to coaching of Munster. The whole rugby family of Ireland and across Europe is in mourning.

"My deepest sympathies to his wife and young children.

""He was a tremendous leader and a massive, massive loss to Irish rugby.

"He was always very friendly, always up for a bit of craic. Always at the heart of it and had huge respect and was a really hard man in his physicality and in his attitude.

"I think he brought to that Munster pack a sense of steel and a sense of strength and naturally he emerged as a leader and when he captained the Irish side as well he brought that same leadership.

"He died in a hotel in Paris. Munster were there playing this afternoon against Racing. It's ironic that the team coach there is Ronan O'Gara, a close friend on that team."

Former Ireland player Donal Lenihan told RTE Radio 1: "He epitomises what Munster rugby is all about. It's absolutely shocking. There's nothing but shock in the air. At 43 years of age, you don't expect something like this to happen.

"There was rumours flying around - sadly it was confirmed. People were afraid to say anything until there was official confirmation. Other than that we have no other information.

"There was no way Munster could play the game. A large Munster contingent silently standing here.

"I saw him in Cork and he was looking well. I though he was enjoying his responsibilities in his Munster role. What happened is just absolutely tragic.

"He was steeped in Munster rugby, he was a skilful all rounder but rugby was always going to be his first love. He's had an unbroken involvement with Minster from an early age.

"You think first of his wife and kids. It will take a long time to recover from this."

Nicknamed Axel, the no-nonsense back-row made his debut for Munster against Swansea in November 1995, the first time the club played in the then Heineken Cup.

From Clare, Foley was a firm favourite with the fans and a key figure in the Munster side that lifted the cup twice in three years in 2006 and in 2008.

A record breaker, he scored 39 tries in the famous red jersey of his province and won 62 caps for Ireland.

His father Brendan was part of the Munster team that famously defeated the All Blacks in 1978, and his sister Rosie was a member of the Irish women's squad.

Tributes flooded in following the announcement of his sudden death.

Frankie Sheahan, a former Irish and Munster star, posted a recent photo of him and others celebrating former Irish star Mick Galwey's birthday.

"Distraught at the tragic news of Anthony Foley, great friend, teammate & legend. Super form last weekend at Mick Galwey's 50th. Incomprehensible," he said.

Sonia O'Sullivan said his death was "sad and shocking".

Brian Moore, whose final days as England hooker overlapped with Foley's early career, said: "Just heard the terrible news of the death of Munster's Anthony Foley - thoughts with his family - very sad indeed."

Clubs across Ireland and England added sympathy messages.

The European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) described Foley as a legend.

Chairman Simon Halliday said: "On behalf of EPCR, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to Anthony's family and to everyone associated with Munster and Irish rugby.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport