By David Raleigh
The widow of Ireland and Munster rugby legend Anthony "Axel" Foley, who passed away suddenly last October, has described a book of condolences containing 10,000 signatures presented to her by the Mayor of Limerick as another reminder of the "amazing goodness of people".
Speaking after being presented with the book at City Hall by Cllr Kieran O'Hanlon, Olive Foley said that as overwhelming as her husband’s passing has been, the generosity of the public has still shone through at all times.
An estimated 20,000 people including Axel's former international and club team mates and coaches attended his removal and funeral in Killaloe, Co Clare.
“As dreadful as this has been, I cannot help, even at the most difficult of times, but see the amazing goodness of people," said Olive.
"You’re dealing with something that is almost too much at times but there’s always someone at your side, some message coming through."
The body of the rugby hero and father of two, was discovered in the Munster team hotel in Paris ahead of the team's European cup clash against French side Racing. A post mortem revealed he died from pulmonary oedema brought on by heart disease.
“The greatness of this is really that it’s there for everyone, every time there’s a tragedy, people respond in amazing ways," Olive added.
"Ireland is a special place in that regard and Limerick too. We had incredible support in Killaloe but it was like there was a small bridge between Killaloe and Limerick at that time, and very much since."
Foley's remains were brought by the home of Munster rugby, Thomond Park after his body was flown back through Shannon Airport. A crowd of hundreds stood and saluted the former Munster captain and head coach and joined his former Shannon RFC teammates in an emotional rendition of their victory anthem There Is An Isle.
“To have 10,000 people sign a book of condolences says it all about Limerick. It has a huge place in our hearts and even the journey home with Anthony, passing Thomond Park and seeing so many people there, is something we will never forget," said Olive.
"We thank everyone across the city and county for their support and for all these signatures. We will never forget it.”
Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon said: “Anthony Foley was a hero of all of Limerick and it’s fair to say that his passing was one of those few moments in your life that you will always remember where you were when you heard the news. It stopped us all in our tracks."
"We had to come to terms with the sudden passing of someone whom we all had a connection with, even for those who didn’t know him."
“Anthony achieved so much in his all too short time here with us but was a really modest person. I think it’s because of that he had a special place in our hearts; a down to earth guy who did so well."
The Mayor also paid tribute to Olive, her sons Tony and Dan and the entire Foley family, for the way they have responded to Anthony’s death.
“Anthony was a hero to us all and Olive is now very much the same. You just had to stand back and admire the way she and the boys and the wider family met Anthony’s passing. She has been so brave and so eloquent, from her homily at his funeral to everything she has done since.
“The online initiative by the family to have others remembered in Masses alongside Anthony in the run up to Christmas was also remarkable. It brought thousands of people together who are grieving. That solidarity has given so many people strength and it was an incredibly selfless thing for the family to do. There’s not much we can do at times like this except let people know we are there for them and Limerick certainly did that for the Foley family.”