THE widow of Irish and Munster rugby legend, Anthony "Axel" Foley, collected a Lifetime Achievement award, Wednesday, in recognition of his service to sport, four months after his sudden death, writes David Raleigh
Olive Foley accepted the award from ex-Munster and Irish rugby star Tony Ward - who played alongside Foley's father Brendan on the Munster team that famously defeated the All Blacks in 1978 at Thomond Park.
An autopsy of the 42-year-old father of two -- who died suddenly in the Munster team hotel in Paris last October ahead of the teams European cup clash against Racing 92 -- found his death was due to "acute pulmonary oedema" caused by a heart rhythm disorder.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Ms Foley said: "I’m pretty sure Anthony would be recoiling with the attention here today. He was very proud of his association with Limerick and from a sporting perspective will always be associated with Munster and Shannon, with many of his greatest rugby moments here in Limerick."
"We know that everyone here misses him and it goes without saying that we do. But we really appreciate the fact that he is thought of and remembered so fondly, including with this Lifetime Achievement Award," she added.
Foley was a robust backrow forward who won 62 caps for Ireland, captaining the national team on three occasions. However, the Limerick sporting giant will be forever remembered on Shannonside as having led Munster to their first European title in 2006, ending an eleven-year glory-quest for the men in red.
Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon said Foley "was an incredible man both on and off the field."
"With regard to Anthony Foley, all of us who love rugby and sport generally were totally shocked by news of his death. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like the collective sense of loss that greeted this," he said.
"We all celebrated his rugby achievements and got so much joy here in Limerick from that. But the other side of Anthony was what he did off the field, his charity work and just how he held himself as a person."
"He was arguably the most modest sports star and this is an acknowledgement that he totally deserves."
The award was presented at the Limerick Person of the Year Awards, sponsored by the Limerick Leader newspaper. The paper's news editor, Eugene Phelan, told those gathered it was apt Tony Ward was presenting the award to Foley's wife.
"When Tony, who was friends with Brendan Foley would call to the Foley home, Anthony would jump under the table and wouldn't come out...He idolised Tony."
"Limerick and Ireland mourned" with the Foley family when they lost the great rugby warrior on October 16th last, he said.
Mr Ward described Foley's contribution to sport as "absolutely immense".
He described the Limerick rugby hero's death as a "JFK moment or a 9-11 moment...when that horrible news came through".