Flags at half-mast as Ire­land mourns Fo­ley

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

DUBLIN: Flags flew at half-mast yes­ter­day in the south­ern Ir­ish prov­ince of Mun­ster as books of con­do­lence were opened across Ire­land with the coun­try reel­ing from the sud­den death of rugby great An­thony Fo­ley. Mun­ster head coach Fo­ley, aged just 42, was found dead in his ho­tel room hours ahead of his side’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup clash with French side Rac­ing 92 on Sun­day. Ir­ish Taoiseach (Prime Min­is­ter) Enda Kenny was among those to pay trib­ute to Fo­ley who en­joyed an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer as a player which saw him win 62 Ire­land caps as a ro­bust back row for­ward.

“An­thony was a leg­endary fig­ure in Mun­ster and Ir­ish rugby. It is tragic to lose such a fan­tas­tic man at such a young age,” Kenny said. That warm trib­ute-to a man who also cap­tained Mun­ster to the 2006 Euro­pean Cup ti­tle and epit­o­mised Mun­ster’s bat­tle cry ‘Stand Up And Fight’ was typ­i­cal of the outpouring of grief for the fa­ther of two. One of Fo­ley’s fel­low for­mer Mun­ster leg­ends Ro­nan O’Gara-who iron­i­cally is now a coach at Rac­ing 92 — de­scribed him­self as ‘heart­bro­ken’. O’Gara, who with Fo­ley won the Euro­pean Cup and a Celtic League with Mun­ster and a Triple Crown with Ire­land in 2004, added “we have lost an in­cred­i­ble man”.

O’Gara’s Rac­ing head coach Lau­rent Labit paid Fo­ley one of the great­est com­pli­ments one could in say­ing he was to Mun­ster what the sublime full­back Serge Blanco had been in his day to Biar­ritz.

“It was not just in Mun­ster and Ir­ish rugby that An­thony Fo­ley is re­spected,” said Labit. “It is a ter­ri­ble shock. He is re­spected in France for his per­for­mances for Mun­ster and Ire­land. He is part of the his­tory of Mun­ster, he is Mon­sieur Mun­ster, the same as Serge Blanco in Biar­ritz or Philippe Sella in Agen. It is a tragedy.”

Il­lus­trat­ing how deeply Fo­ley had touched the rugby world in his play­ing days and then af­ter­wards Eng­land’s 2003 World Cup win­ning coach Clive Wood­ward tweeted his con­do­lences.

“Shocked & so sad to hear about death of An­thony Fo­ley. A true leg­end & a man who had to­tal re­spect of team­mates & op­po­si­tion,” said Wood­ward. Within hours of the news break­ing at Sun­day lunchtime, Thomond Park, Mun­ster’s home sta­dium in the city of Lim­er­ick, had be­come a vir­tual shrine.

—AFP

EX­ETER: Play­ers stand for a minute si­lence in mem­ory of Mun­ster head coach and for­mer Ir­ish in­ter­na­tional An­thony Fo­ley who died on Sun­day in a Paris ho­tel dur­ing the Euro­pean Rugby Cham­pi­ons Cup rugby union match be­tween Ex­eter Chiefs and Cler­mont Au­vergne at Sandy Park Sta­dium in Ex­eter, south west Eng­land, on Sun­day.

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