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Dublin: 20 °C Thursday 18 July, 2019
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Olive Foley paid emotional tribute to her husband this afternoon

The Munster legend was laid to rest in Killaloe amid emotional scenes this afternoon.

Anthony Foley Funeral - St Flannan's Church Source: PA Wire/PA Images

“ANTHONY NEVER WASTED words, so I’m going to keep it brief,” Olive Foley said this afternoon in her tribute to her husband.

Over the next thirteen and a half minutes, she courageously delivered an emotional and witty tribute to her “soul mate” husband, and father of their two young boys.

She described as “beautiful” the many tributes paid to her husband over the past few days, particularly the emotional rendition of “There Is An Isle” sang by her husband’s band of brothers at Shannon Rugby Club, where he won five All-Ireland championship medals, as his remains were brought by the home of Munster Rugby, Thomond Park, and then on to his “beloved” secondary school St Munchins, Limerick, where he first honed his rugby skills.

The packed congregation laughed and applauded loudly as Olive continued: “He would have absolutely hated all the fuss… but he would have been very proud.”

In her address she continued: “Anthony was full of surprises. Every day of my life he gave me a surprise of some description, but it wasn’t what he said; it was what he did. His kindness was subtle.”

She described as “huge” the loss of the rugby great and family man.

Anthony trusted me with almost everything; with the children, their schooling, the house, everything. And I intend to honour that trust, and I’m going to make sure that our two adored boys will grow up decent, solid men, full of integrity and honesty, just like their Dad.

Paying tribute to his “hands on” skills as a father, she drew more laughter from those assembled as she described the average day in the Foley household: “Everyday after work he’d come in and sit down and have a coffee. I wouldn’t get that much chat, but he’d sit there. He was happy enough to let me ramble on, and that was ok.”

Munster Press Conference Tributes to Anthony Foley At Thomond Park in Limerick this week Source: Niall Carson

But then he’d say ‘get the hurley’s lads, were going for a puck’; Now I’m going to have to pick it up a notch or two with the hurling. We’ll see how we get on with that.

‘He was a ringer’

“He took an interest in everything (his sons) did. He never missed a (hurling) blitz or a training session. He was even inclined to check the homework, which wouldn’t have been his number one priority, but he’d always have a look at it and check the spellings.”

Fighting back tears, she added proudly: “From the moment those boys were born Anthony loved and adored them.”

“My last conversation with him was on the Saturday evening. He’d been ringing all day long. Anthony was a ringer. He rang and rang and rang, twenty times a day. He’d say nothing, and sure… but I’d never bother ringing him back because he’d always ring me.”

But I rang him back that day and we chatted. Of course, our chat was about the lads and how the athletics went that morning, and how the javelin was going with Tony, and
then Tony had a chat with him.
It was a lovely conversation, but I didn’t expect it to be the last.

Earlier on that day Olive had hosted a fundraiser in her home to raise funds for the family of a local mother of triplets who’d passed away earlier this year.

“He asked me all about it,” she said.

Values

Paying the ultimate tribute to Anthony, she said: “We were married for wonderful years. It was an idyllic life.” “Our home was so happy and it was a haven for all the important things in life. His values were perfect.”

Anthony Foley Funeral - St Flannan's Church Former Munster players Killian Keane (left) and David Corkery at St Flannan's Church in Killaloe today Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Anthony was my true soul mate. We were perfect together, and he will never leave my heart.
We had great plans for the future, and we talked about going to Australia next year… and loads of other things we were going to do… but the show will go on and I’m going to stick to the plan, because Anthony is going to be with us in spirit every step of the way.

One moment of hilarity cut through the sadness of the occasion as she continued: “As a family, along with some of our friends, we went over to Paris to bring him home. And I am ashamed to say… that I said a prayer on the way over on the plane… I said… ‘please Jesus, let him have shaved’.”

Her husband she said had “touched a lot of lives and leaves a great legacy behind”.

Text message

At one point, she read out a text message she had received from a Munster player, which she said summed up her inspirational husband:

Olive, I just wanted to text you to let you know that Axel was special. He was the heart and soul of Munster. I worshipped him as a player for ten years and then had the privilege of having him as a coach. I owe him so much.
I was in a really dark place during a long injury; I was horrible to the people I loved, and I had all but given up several times. But, Axel never lost faith in me. He always checked in with me, and he always supported me, even though I was pretty much a lost cause, and he had a million different other things going on.
He loved you and the boys so much and I’m sorry for your loss, but I hope you know that Munster is your extended family and we are here with you at your time of loss. Axel meant a huge deal to me and I will miss him so much.

Anthony Foley, who led Munster to two Heineken Cup triumphs, had recently been transitioned from Director of Rugby at the club to position as head coach, which Olive said had “hurt” him. But she added: “He never held a grudge.”

Anthony Foley funeral Anthony Foley Source: Nigel French

“The stones on the road know that the last two years have been very stressful for Anthony and Munster, but he took that job as head coach and he gave it everything, with the same passion he gave it when he put on his jersey and won two Heineken Cups,” she said.

Smiling down

There were very rough days during the last couple of years, but despite the pressure and hurt (felt) during that time – I have no doubt that Anthony now is having a smile down now knowing he gave it everything.

She added her husband was always strong in the face of a challenge: “When I found it stressful sometimes, his advice was always the same. He’d say to me, ‘Olive, I was never as bad as they say I was and I was never as good as they say I was, so read nothing’”.

She thanked her “wonderful friends” for their support and those who organised the funeral.

“It was a huge logistics operation, and it was short notice, and to all our dear friends, thank you too – it enabled us to focus on what was important and spend time with Anthony.”

As she ended her tribute to sustained loud applause, she wept and said: “I’m handing Anthony over to god now, and my faith and our faith will get us through this.”

Lord, nothing is going to happen to me today that you or I can’t handle together, and it’ll be one day at a time.

Read: Stander to wear number 24 as Munster retire 8 jersey for tomorrow

Read: ‘A loving, caring family man’: Anthony Foley laid to rest in Clare

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About the author:

David Raleigh

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