Liam Toland: Anthony Foley's influence expanded way beyond Munster and way beyond Ireland
The former Irish international and Munster legend passed away overnight in Paris16:53 Sunday 16 October 2016, 16:53 16 Oct 2016
On Sunday, the news broke that Munster coach Anthony Foley had passed away at the age of 42.
A huge shock for all in the world of rugby and the sporting world in general, tributes have been pouring in as those who played with or against the Munster legend have tried to put into words his impact on the game.
Speaking on Off the Ball in the wake of the news that Foley had passed away, Liam Toland explained just how well he knew Foley as both a player and a man, and the impact that he had not only in the province which he represented with pride and dignity throughout his career, but on the game as a whole in Ireland.
Toland began by explaining that he had come up through the ranks with him, and even roomed with him on a few tours, which gave him an insight into the type of person he was on and off the pitch.
"It was back in 1989 when I first played against Anthony," remembered Toland. "I was playing at number eight for St. Clement's school, and he was at number eight for St. Munchin's.
"When I played against him, it was definitely a Foley I was playing against; just the sheer size of the family, the Foleys, they have such a footstep in the mid-west, in Irish rugby and Irish sport [...] They're an immensely incredible family. They're a wonderful, loving and caring family and I'm just absolutely devastated by the news that they would have been greeted with this morning.
"I played against him that day in school; I played Munster schools, Munster 20s, Irish 21s, Irish students, Ireland A, I played with him for the Munster senior team, played against him for Leinster, played against him for Shannon, so I know the guy inside out [...] I'm just so deeply, deeply shocked for his family, for the community that is rugby."
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Toland detailed how interacting with Foley was always a pleasure, whether or not the conversation was flowing.
"Sometimes he'd decide not to speak a whole lot, and sometimes he wouldn't," explained Toland. "Either way he was just wonderful company. A very principled guy, a very honest and decent guy."
As he transitioned from player to coach, Foley showed the extent of his natural intelligence for the game of rugby, something which Toland said had been more than evident from an early age.
"He understood rugby through the simplicity of how he worked," said Toland. "If you ask 'what's the quickest way to get across the road,' he'd say 'from there to there,' that's it. Whereas many of us in rugby want to complicate things and sound fancy, that was never Anthony's way. He had such a clarity about rugby, and such a clear understanding of how he should play.
"As a rugby guy, he had this clarity of thought that was just so infectious. In other words, he would say in one sentence something that would take ten for the rest of us. Sometimes people would forget, because it wasn't fancy language, but if you took time out to listen to what he said, it was wonderfully clear. It was perfect, it made sense and he played rugby in a similar fashion.
"He was an extremely principled guy. Very, very loyal guy, very honest guy. His clarity of though it something that I always remark on, even at that underage level [...] he really understood rugby.
"He had an ability to see a problem, understand the problem, assess it and come back with what we need to do in the space of nanoseconds. "
Summing up his impact, Toland noted that the sheer number of tributes that have flowed in from across the country and the world show just how respected Foley was, and how much his impact had been felt.
"When you hear guys like Keith Wood and all these other legends that we've had the pleasure of producing in Ireland speak so highly of him as well, it shows that it wasn't just the little world that is Shannon. It extended way beyond Shannon, way beyond Munster, and way beyond Ireland as well."
You can listen to Toland's tribute below:
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