In a week when the ethos of Munster Rugby has been thrust under the spotlight, perhaps it is fitting the man who was the very embodiment of such ideals and beliefs was honoured forever in Limerick, writes Colm O’Connor.
A bust of Anthony Foley was last night unveiled at Shannon RFC’s clubhouse in the shadows of Thomond Park.
The club commissioned acclaimed Clare sculptor Seamus Connolly to create a lasting memory to the club legend who died tragically on October 16, 2016. He was 42.
“The Foley family are sown in the fabric of Shannon RFC,” Shannon RFC chairman, John Leahy, explained.
“And we were so proud of Anthony in particular. We had a lot of celebrated players but Anthony was one of the greatest and one of the quietest! He was never brash or loud. The ironic thing is that he wouldn’t have liked all the fuss around an event like this.”
Leahy said the plan for such a memorial were sown in the days following Foley’s passing.
“Standing outside the Shannon clubhouse when the funeral cortege was passing was one the most emotional occasions of my life. There was a sea of black and blue, it felt to us that he was coming home that night. We were lost in the whole grief and sadness at the time but we, as a club, wanted to do something to perpetuate his memory and so we settled on this.
“We wanted to create something that ensures that Anthony, and the Foley family, will be remembered forever by Shannon FC.”
Leahy explained that a number of presentations were made at the private event.
“The bust of Anthony was unveiled first in the clubhouse. After that, we presented a similar bust to the headmaster of St Munchin’s College where Anthony Foley played all his schools rugby. Then we presented a full portrait of Anthony to Mr Pat Reddan from Killaloe as a thank you for the manner in which he and the people of the village were so kind and understanding to the Foley family, us in Shannon and indeed the greater rugby community during the days around the burial.
“And that portrait is painted by Ramona O’Halloran who is a grandniece of Shannon legend ‘Fox’ O’Halloran. After that Noel Healy sang ‘There is an Isle’ to end the official part of the ceremony.”
Sculptor Connolly admitted he had been honoured to undertake this commission. “I’d have an interest in rugby and Munster so I’d know what Anthony Foley represented,” he explained last night. “But it is exceptionally nerve-wracking to undertake a project like this given that he died so recently and leaves a wife and young children who all would have clear memories of him. I worked off a series of pictures and from that, I picked a pose that represented him best to my eye. A bust is a snapshot, it can’t be all things to all men."
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.