Yesterday we learned that our captain, our coach, our dear friend Anthony Foley has passed away.
Tributes have been pouring in across the world from rugby bodies, teams and fans, as well as from many of Anthony Foley’s friends, colleagues and formers teammates.
Yesterday was a dark day for Munster rugby as the man who finally led us to glory in 2006 is no longer with us. It does however give me great joy to have witnessed something, that dare I say, I haven’t seen in a very long time- a united Munster.
Much has been said over the last few days regarding a possible Cork divide and to be honest much has been said about a divide in general over the past number of seasons.
Before Munster’s new Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus came in this season, Foley was the man at the helm for the previous two. Those two seasons will not be fondly remembered by many as Foley and his team struggled to recreate the success he achieved as a player. There was however that sense that came from Foley after every game that he felt like he was letting his beloved province down.
There are only a handful of names that come to mind when you look back at the glory years and what was synonymous with Munster and Foley was one of those names, and that’s a fact. Every time he put on that jersey, you got a sense that he wore it every time as if it was his last. He wasn’t the fittest, the strongest or the fastest but somehow that will, that desire, that passion drove him to the very pinnacle of the game.
His time as a coach however, was marred with controversy, and many fans, including myself, have cursed his name over the last few years due to Munster’s poor outings in the PRO12 and Champions Cup. As a result, attendances have fallen dramatically and that buzz that used to surrounded every game, faded away to a whisper.
Since the news broke yesterday afternoon however, that whisper has become a roar. Munster fans all over the world are once again reunited for a common cause. We are all shocked, saddened and heartbroken. Some of us are disgusted with ourselves for our treatment of him as a coach as we are reminded of his accolades as a player and his absolute raw passion for Munster. Foley was not a successful head coach in his two-year spell, but at the same time, we as Munster fans let him down.
Seeing the mural outside Thomond Park yesterday struck a chord in me. Being stuck at the lights at Hassett’s cross as car after car looked for a spot to park in so they could head across to the stadium and pay their respects. Hearing the stories from his old friends and Shannon club mates on the radio this morning on Limerick’s 95fm gave me goosebumps. It brought back that old sense of Munster, that community, that excitement before every game.
My message is simply this; do not let Munster fade away into a whisper again once this is all over. Now is the time to revive the pride that once existed in our wonderful southern province. Now is the time to start filling Thomond Park again, to start filling up the streets and the pubs. Anthony Foley died yesterday and you can be damn sure he died with a belief still instilled in him that he could bring back the glory days to Munster. Do not let him die in vain.
Now is our chance to bring back the Munster we fell in love with. Do it for Anthony.
– Jason Hennessy