The raucous roar of Thomond Park which has serenaded rugby warrior Anthony Foley over the years was silenced yesterday.
The front gates of the stadium became a monument to grief, showered with flowers, flags, jerseys, caps, and scarves.
The numbed Munster faithful came to pay their respects. Dan Mooney, 32, an air traffic controller at Shannon, summed up the mood of Limerick’s rugby fraternity.
“I am a die-hard Young Munster man,” Dan said.
“But today you can be Young Munster, Garryowen, Bohs, Shannon, Old Crescent; we gather to mourn a great Limerick rugby man. We are fierce to compete on the field against one another, but at times like today we are one rugby community in Limerick and Anthony Foley was a leader of that community and its great heritage. He was a clubman, a Limerickman, a Munsterman, and a great Irishman in rugby.”
As the main gates of Thomond Park blossomed into a sorrowful tribute, Jonathan Ryan from Monaleen said: “I’m a Bohs man. When I heard the news I wanted to come over to Thomond Park. I decided to bring flowers. And when I walked out into my garden I saw my last few red roses of the year. It was poignant. I placed them together and brought them to put at the gate at Thomond Park. Anthony Foley was a leader on and off the pitch and epitomised all that was good in rugby.”
There was many a tear shed in Limerick’s rugby pubs last night.
Many of the Shannon RFC stalwarts gathered in Jerry Flannery’s on Catherine St.
Jerry, father of former Ireland and Munster star Jerry Jr said: “Jerry is over with the team and he made contact with his partner Katy. I’m in the business 48 years and I can say this is the saddest day I’ve stood behind the counter here in my pub. We have always been a strong Shannon RFC house and Anthony and his dad Brendan are old friends.”
Former Shannon RFC president Gerry Ryan said a group of the club members had arranged to meet at Jerry Flannery’s to watch the game.
“We couldn’t believe the news. Some of the lads are gone home. It’s hard to take. We lost Colm Tucker three years ago and he was only 60. But to think Anthony is gone in his early 40s...”
Last night, Limerick tried to come to grips with a great loss.
In the coming days, it will recall many great stories of many great days, and in particular the day in 2006 when Anthony Foley came home with the Heineken Cup.
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