Belfast Telegraph

Anthony Foley was destined to play rugby, says ex-Ireland captain Donal Lenihan

Former Irish captain Donal Lenihan has recalled Anthony Foley being baptised in the essence of Munster rugby.

The player turned pundit, who was in France for Sunday's game, was visibly emotional as he paid a personal tribute and revealed the symmetry that flowed through the career's of "Axel" and his father Brendan.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Lenihan said he followed the back-row's career from its earliest days and watched him emulate his father's success on the pitch and guide Munster to its greatest glory.

"I remember Anthony right from the those early days as a young fella running around the dressing rooms in Thomond Park," he said.

"With Shannon (Anthony and Brendan's club) there was a great rivalry with Cork Con my club and Anthony as a young fella was always present."

Lenihan said Foley's path into the red jersey of Munster was set in stone.

"He was destined to be a rugby player," he said.

"I can think of playing for Ireland and seeing this little figure in the corner waving an Irish flag. So, you obviously take an interest in somebody when you know them from such a young age.

"To see him come up through the ranks of Munster and go on to get capped for Ireland and then, almost in the perfect symmetry, with his dad being on that Munster team that beat the All Blacks in 1978, that he was the one to lift the Heineken Cup in that final in 2006 on that incredible day at the Millennium Stadium was absolutely fitting."

Foley was a key figure in Munster's historic European victory against Biarritz in Cardiff, 10 years ago.

And after years of going so close in the premier competition the highly regarded No 8 was again central to the province lifting the trophy for the second time in three years when his side defeated Toulouse in the final.

Members of that team enjoyed an anniversary get together in London in recent weeks.

Lenihan was on a panel of experts that selected the best 15 players across the first 15 years of the Heineken Cup.

"He was in that side and when you consider the great players like Lawrence Dallaglio fighting for that number eight jersey and I think the fact Anthony was selected on that team unanimously by everyone around the table just shows what an integral part he was of not only Munster's journey but the Heineken Cup, as it was, the Champions Cup as it is now," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph