Conor Murray Recalls The Devastating Moment Munster Learned Of Anthony Foley’s Death
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Conor Murray has opened up for the first time about Anthony Foley’s death and the moment he and the Munster team learned of the tragic news.
In a lengthy and moving interview with the Guardian’s Donald McRae, Murray reveals how he still thinks about his mentor and friend every day since his untimely passing. Foley was found dead just hours before Munster’s scheduled Champions Cup clash with Racing 92.
McRae describes how Murray is visibly upset while talking about that dreaded day as Murray explains how it all unfolded before them. He notes how the lads simply thought he had slept in because of the time-difference, when he didn’t show for the lineout walkthrough with the forwards.
It was when they got back to the team hotel for the pre-match meal when people started to feel something was seriously wrong
“We woke up, had breakfast and at 11 o’clock we had our lineout walkthrough with the forwards.
“Axel is usually at that but there was no sign of him. The lads thought he’d slept in or forgotten the time-difference. Back at the hotel, before the pre-match meal, people were scurrying around. I remember seeing our physio holding the lift with his leg and saying: ‘The green bag, the green bag …’ It was his medical bag. Someone handed it to him and the lift went up.
“People started asking: ‘Where’s Axel?’ I said: ‘Man, I have a bad feeling here.’ An ambulance pulled up outside our hotel but they didn’t seem in a rush and that made it even more worrying.
Rassie Erasmus called us in. He was emotional and said: ‘Axel’s sick. I don’t know what’s happening yet.
“Twenty minutes later Niall O’Donovan [the team-manager] came down and just said it: ‘Axel passed.’
Some people cried. Some people walked out. It was surreal and chilling. I sat there and said: ‘Oh my God.’ I couldn’t believe it so I rang my dad. He was at the ground and they were all having beers. He could see other people finding out as news trickled through the crowd. The mood changed completely.
“We had six hours to wait for our flight so we went to a cafe and had a pint for Axel. What else do you do?
He had just died but we ended up laughing about things he did, which is natural. But Axel had been a big part of my life for seven years.”
Murray goes on to recall that special day in Thomond Park as Munster took on Glasgow, with Foley’s funeral having taken place just the day before. It was a surreal day, full of excitement, heartbreak and emotion.
Following Munster’s resounding win, Anthony’s two son’s, Tony and Dan, joined the Munster players in a circle in the centre of the pitch and belted out the southern province’s famous song, Stand Up and Fight.
Murray notes how the moment still gives him shivers, and how he couldn’t help but cry as they all embraced in song.
“The game against Glasgow, six days later, was when his two boys, Tony and Dan, joined the team in the huddle on the pitch,” says Murray.
“That was the moment I couldn’t stop myself crying. Really. The funeral had been the day before and, in the huddle, we sang [Stand Up and Fight]. It was chilling.
I can feel it on my neck now. The crowd went silent and listened. You could feel how close everyone was in that moment.
We were mourning together, sharing our grief and supporting each other. It was incredible – far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.”
The full interview can be read here.