Rugby stars say farewell to Munster coach Anthony Foley

Funeral of Munster head coach Anthony Foley, St Flannans Church, Killaloe, Co Clare
Funeral of Munster head coach Anthony Foley, St Flannans Church, Killaloe, Co Clare

Irish rugby star Anthony Foley has been remembered as a “second-to-none” family man at his funeral in Co Clare.

The Munster head coach and ex-Ireland international died aged 42 in a hotel in Paris, just hours before the team were due to play Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup last Sunday.

Anthony Foley in September 2016

Anthony Foley in September 2016

His coffin was carried into St Flannan’s Church on Friday in his home town of Killaloe in Co Clare, accompanied by the Toreador Song from Bizet’s opera Carmen, which had been adopted by Munster Rugby for the club’s anthem ‘Stand Up And Fight’.

Players past and present formed a guard of honour inside the church grounds.

Among them were former Irish and Munster stars Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer, along with ex-Ireland team-mate Brian O’Driscoll.

Hundreds of other mourners packed into the church and surrounding streets.

Foley is survived by widow Olive and sons Tony and Dan.

Father Pat Malone, a family friend, said: “It is fitting that we celebrate with dignity the life and achievements of a man who lived life with great dignity and personal and professional integrity.”

He went on: “His family meant all to him. Olive, you were his true love, and how good you were together.

“One could sense the strength of your relationship, the warmth of your love for each other, and the ways you supported each other through the easy as well as the difficult moments of life.”

Fr Malone added that the couple were “second-to-none as parents”.

“Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley made many a mark in his 42 short years of life,” he added.

“Just look around and see; the indelible, warm, affirming marks he left in family, friends, colleagues, sports fans, this local community, rugby wherever it is spoken.”

In a brief moment of levity, he added: “I am fairly certain God could do with a top-class Number 8.”

Mr Foley died from a build-up of fluid on his lungs as a result of heart disease.