'Our lives changed forever': Anthony Foley's wife hails 'amazing local community'

Munster head coach and rugby legend Anthony Foley died one year ago today Picture: Sportsfile

Munster head coach and rugby legend Anthony Foley died one year ago today Picture: Sportsfile

A YEAR on from the sudden death death of Munster and Irish rugby legend Anthony Foley, his widow has paid tribute to the “many special companions who have helped us to travel this journey over the past 12 months”.

On the first anniversary of the shock death of the Munster head coach, Olive Foley has issued a lengthy statement “to say thank-you to all those people for what they have done for us” over the past year.

She hailed an “amazing local community” who had stood “side by side” with the family since Foley died suddenly in Paris on October 16, 2016 ahead of a clash against Racing 92, who his former charges again face in Thomond Park this Saturday evening.

Olive said: “It goes without saying that the past year was one that no preparation could help with. Losing Anthony in any circumstances, not least one with no forewarning brought us as a family to our knees and many, many others also.

“On this day last year, our lives changed forever when were given the dreadful news that Anthony had passed. The 12 months since have been about trying to take in what has happened, struggling a lot of the time to actually believe it has happened, desperately missing Anthony and trying to adapt to this new order without him here.

“We are not the only ones, of course, to have travelled this journey. Sudden death is something that has come to many, many doors.  Many also have travelled this particular journey with us; people – teammates, friends outside rugby, etc, who have also mourned Anthony’s death terribly.

“Crucially, however, we’ve also had so many special companions who have helped us to travel this journey over the past 12 months. People who’ve extended their hand and held ours, from the very moment they heard the news, right to this day.

“I want to use this opportunity today to say thank-you to all those people for what they have done for us this past 12 months.

“I don’t intend to name them individually as they know who they are. But it has been a huge mix of people; from the very close to distant strangers. All showing incredible humanity, caring and compassion in coming to our side.

“I think, of course, of our immediate families and dear friends who came running the very moment word reached you. At this worst of times, you picked us up, propped us up. Walked us through those days, weeks and months. Stayed with us, day in and day out. 

“I think very much also of the rugby brethren; Anthony’s dear friends, teammates, players and opponents from that world.  His club, province, nation, the Lions; other clubs, provinces and nations. I think of that unforgettable moment outside Thomond Park, the proudest rendition of ‘There is an Isle’ and the sustained applause as Anthony was driven by. 

“This sporting community flocked from the four corners of the country and from across the world to bid Anthony farewell and to show their care, offer their support.  And they continue to offer it.

“There’s our amazing local community, who rolled out a carpet of warmth and care for Anthony’s final return.  A community standing side by side, almost taking the baton from Thomond and bringing Anthony home.  Side by side from the moment we turned into the town with him for that last time. We’ll never come back home so laden with sadness but we will never again be lifted as we were by the sight of the hundreds who lined, in silence, the road into Killaloe. 

“Candles in their hands and more at the roadside.  It was a special, serene moment, the softest but loudest of statements that you were there even more in this moment than you were in his triumphs.

“It was a terribly difficult time in our lives but through the gloom we could see all of you; family friends, sporting colleagues, community; standing shoulder to shoulder, carrying your own pain but also willing to carry ours. 

“At the very worst time in life, we saw the very best of others. That, we will never forget and we hope to be able to one day return the generosity.

"I thank the tens of thousands who wrote to us in letters or on social media, especially these pages, to share their experiences of Anthony, in many cases their own personal tragedies, giving us many encouraging words to help us through.

"Finally, there is a very special event taking place next year in Ireland called the World Meeting of Families. Our experience tells us that family is most definitely worth celebrating. Through our difficulties we have seen family at its best; our own family, the sporting family, the family of community, of friends."