By Colm O’Connor
In a week when the ethos of Munster Rugby has been thrust under the spotlight, perhaps it is fitting the man who was the embodiment of such ideals and beliefs will be honoured forever in Limerick.
Tonight a bust of Anthony Foley will be unveiled at Shannon RFC’s clubhouse in the shadows of Thomond Park.
The club commissioned 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,” said club chairman John Leahy. “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 origins of the memorial were sown in the days following Foley’s passing.
“Standing outside the Shannon clubhouse when the funeral cortege was passing was one of 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 which ensures that Anthony, and the Foley family, will be remembered forever by Shannon players and supporters.”
Leahy said a number of presentations will be made at tonight’s private event. “We are hoping that Anthony’s father, Brendan, will unveil the bust in the clubhouse.
“After that, we are presenting a similar bust to the headmaster of St Munchin’s College where Anthony played all his schools rugby.
"Then we will present 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, to the greater rugby community during the days around the burial.
“I should mention that portrait is painted by Ramona O’Halloran who is a grandniece of Shannon legend ‘Fox’ O’Halloran. After that Noel Healy will sing ‘There is an Isle’ which will bring the official proceedings to an end.”
Sculptor Connolly said 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.
“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 those I picked a pose that represented him best to my eye.”