Standing ovation for widow of Irish rugby legend Foley

Olive Foley received a standing ovation after speaking about the loss of her rugby legend husband Anthony at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. Credit: PA

Olive Foley has been given a standing ovation at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin after making an emotional speech about losing her Irish rugby legend husband Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley.

She was speaking about the importance of faith and family in sport, in a panel discussion alongside rugby star Ronan O’Gara, former Manchester United player turned priest Father Philip Mulryne, and Kerry GAA all-Ireland winner Aidan O’Mahony.

During Thursday’s event at the RDS, Mrs Foley said the support she and her two sons received in the wake of her husband’s sudden death was priceless.

Anthony Foley died from a heart attack in a Paris hotel room in October 2016. He was head coach for Munster Rugby Club and had travelled to France for a match against Racing Metro.

In those darkest hours, the arms of that family wrapped their arms around me and my family in a way that was remarkable and have done so ever since.

Olive Foley

“Anthony was an everyday man - for a pretty big man off the field, in a tough game, off the field, as a husband and as a coach, he went about his business with humility and kindness,” his wife said.

“People could relate to him and had a bond with him, it’s fair to say he was an idol to many, but nowhere was he idolised more than at home.

“Losing my husband, confidante and best friend, but most of all the father of my children, created a void that is impossible to fill.”

Olive Foley broke down while talking about the loss of her husband Anthony. Credit: PA

Breaking down during her speech, Mrs Foley hailed her family at home, and within sport.

“Anthony gave everything to sport, and sport has really given back,” she said.

“They joined together and wrapped us in a blanket of support, and that includes Ronan O’Gara, who was amazing at the time.”

Rugby star Ronan O'Gara was visibly moved during Olive Foley's speech. Credit: PA

More than a thousand people in Dublin’s RDS arena stood up to applaud Mrs Foley after her speech.

A visibly upset O’Gara took to the stage after Mrs Foley to talk about what faith in sport meant to him through his rugby career.

“I’m here today to support Olive and, although it’s a cliché, the family which Axel laid was incredibly tight, it was special dressing room and that dressing room becomes your family,” he said.

“It has enriched our lives, it helps us to deal with real issues, sharing thoughts and worries, creates values and respect - for me, that’s what today is all about.”

O’Gara won 128 caps for Ireland, winning three Triple Crowns and the Grand Slam in 2009.

He also played on three British and Irish Lions tours, winning two caps, and played for sixteen seasons with Munster, including under Anthony Foley, with whom he won two Heineken Cups.

Philip Mulryne, a former Man United and Norwich City star, also spoke about his decision to become a priest, how he fell away from his faith as a fooballer, and returned to it later in his career.

Philip Mulryne played football for Man Utd and Norwich City, but went on to become a priest. Credit: PA

He hailed managers Alex Ferguson and Malky Mackay for creating family values within successful teams, teaching young players humility and dedication.

He added that, when he was a homesick youngster, Alex Ferguson would phone his mother in Belfast to reassure her that her son was coping away from home.

  • WATCH: Father Philip Mulryne talks to UTV

The World Meeting of Families started on Tuesday ahead of the Pope’s visit to Ireland.

More than 37,000 people from 116 different countries are expected to attend the RDS arena for a series of events.

Olive Foley received a standing ovation after her emotional speech about the loss of her husband Anthony. Credit: PA