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Anthony Foley.

Olive Foley’s tribute to ‘soulmate’

Details of the last conversation former Munster legend, Anthony Foley had with his wife, Olive and son, Tony were revealed during his funeral mass in St Flannan’s Church, Killaloe on Friday.

Olive recalled the last time she spoke to her husband was last Saturday week, just hours before he passed away from a heart attack at the Munster team hotel in Paris.

“We chatted about the lads and how they were getting on in the athletics, and how Tony was faring in the javelin.”

“Tony had a chat with too. It was a lovely conversation… I didn’t know it would be our last,” she said, breaking down.

During a heart-rendering tribute, she praised her “soul mate” with whom she had spent “seventeen wonderful years” of marriage.

She drew laughter from the packed church of 500 several times, describing life with Anthony, affectionately known as “Axel” and their two boys Tony and Dan.

Foley, who wasn’t known as a talker, would “ring and ring and ring” Olive everyday, and when she would answer “he’d say nothing, sure”.

“I never rang him back because I knew he’d be ringing me again,” she quipped.

“It was an idyllic life. Our home was so happy and it was a haven for all the most important things in life. Anthony’s values were so perfect.

“The show will go on and I’m going to stick to our plan, because Anthony is going to be with us in spirit every step of the way. He was my soul mate and we were perfect together.. he will never leave my heart.”

She said the last two years of Axel’s life were “very stressful”.

“He took that job as (Munster) head coach and he gave it everything, and he used the same passion he used whenever he pulled on a jersey. They were very rough days those last two years. He’s smiling down now, knowing he gave it everything.”

“He never held a grudge…he told me, ‘I was never as bad as they say I was and I was never as good as they say I was, so read nothing (in the media).”

She thanked their friends and family, and those who organised the funeral which “enabled us to focus on what was important, and spend time with Anthony.”

“I’m handing Anthony over to God now…We’ll take it one day at a time,” she said breaking down in tears to a thunderous applause.

The twin communities of Ballina and Killaloe were submerged in a sea of red and white, as residents and businesses displayed flags and banners in memory of their deceased hero.

Axel’s former Munster teammates Peter Clohessy, Mick Galwey, Keith Wood, and John “Bull” Hayes, helped carry their former captain out of the church to his final resting place in nearby Reilig Lua cemetery, as crowds of mourners applauded the great sportsman home.

There were two groups of pallbearers – Paul O’Connell led the one with retired Munster rugby players and the second one for current Munster players and management was directed by team manager Niall O’Donovan.

The chief celebrant, Fr Pat Malone, PP Clarecastle, who is a family friend, described Olive’s reflection after Holy Communion as a “magnificent tribute”.

In his wide-ranging homily, Fr Malone said it is fitting that the Foley family celebrates with dignity the life and achievements of a man who lived “life with great dignity and personal and professional integrity”.

“Today, as we commend Anthony to the care of God, we ask that he may sleep that sleep of peace in God’s presence. I am fairly certain God could do with a top-class Number 8,” he added.

Dan Danaher

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