The widow of Munster rugby legend Anthony Foley has said she is finally seeing “a little bit of light” after a turbulent two years since her husband’s sudden death.
Olive Foley told the Marian Finucane show on RTÉ Radio 1 that she had absolutely no idea her husband was in poor health and this made the news of his death absolutely shocking to her.
The former Munster head coach died suddenly in Paris on October 16, 2016, the day Munster were to play Racing 92 in the Champions Cup.
Olive recalled how her mother broke the sad news to her.
She said that although her instinct was to protect her two boys Dan and Tony, who were aged eight and 11 at the time, she told her children very straight that “Daddy had died in his sleep”.
She revealed that David Coleman, a child psychologist and neighbour, advised her to bring her children with her to Paris and to spend as much time with their father before his funeral.
She said she was completely honest and open with them from the start.
Mrs Foley said the two years that Anthony was in charge at Munster were “very difficult years” when the team struggled and yet he never lost heart, despite the criticism of Anthony making it “a stressful time”.
However, Olive said Anthony had a lovely gift of humility and while he was idolised by many, he was mostly idolised at home and was “a great family man”.
Mrs Foley said she channelled her “inner Anthony” to deliver her eulogy at the packed funeral for her husband.
She said it was always one of his goals to coach Munster and when the opportunity came he embraced it and “gave it everything”.
She said she was very blessed that Anthony had written a book in 2008 which documented every match he played and this helps to talk to the children about their Dad.
Olive said it has been “a really important” book to them in the last couple of years which have been tough for them, as it documents so much about their Dad and Mum before the children were born.
She said her two sons are now doing great while their local primary school principal and teachers needed good guidance and support to deal with the school community after Anthony’s death.
They got that help from the Limerick children’s grief centre which allows bereaved children the space to deal with their upset in an open and confidential environment.
Sr Helen Culhane from the centre said when children cannot verbalise their feelings they use creativity and the centre uses board games, art, clay and workbooks to help children to deal with their emotions.
As Ireland prepare to face New Zealand today, Olive spoke of the camaraderie and rivalry between Anthony and All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu.
She said Anthony had travelled to New Zealand in 1992 with the Irish schoolboys and made lots of great friends.
Following an international match in later years, Anthony had swapped jerseys with Lomu, which is now framed on the wall in their house.
You can listen to the full interview below.
– Digital Desk