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Rugby

06th Oct 2023

Peter O’Mahony paid a powerful tribute to Anthony Foley ahead of landmark in Paris

Lee Costello

Peter O'Mahony Anthony Foley

“It’s an incredibly sad memory for the Munster team who were in Paris that week.”

Peter O’Mahony is preparing to play Scotland this Saturday in the World Cup, but still took the time to pay a powerful tribute to Anthony Foley ahead of a landmark game in Paris.

The Munster star is set to make his 100th cap against Scotland at the Stade de France, and although his focus is on getting Ireland over the line, his old coach is never far from his mind.

Back in 2016, Foley was in France with a Munster team that was captained by O’Mahony, and it was very much business as usual until tragedy struck.

‘Axel’ as he was affectionately known, had unexpectedly passed away in his hotel room during the trip, sending shockwaves of despair throughout the squad, the rugby community, and Ireland.

Peter O'Mahony Anthony Foley

Peter O’Mahony pays tribute to Anthony Foley.

Now on his return to France, with a big game to prepare for, O’Mahony admits that his old mentor is always in his thoughts.

“Look, it was funny, myself and Johnny [Sexton] had a conversation about it on the way to the South Africa game. Sometimes it’s weird to be in Paris and think about ‘Axel’ [Foley] and what happened.

“It’s an incredibly sad memory for the Munster team who were in Paris that week. ‘Axel’ is always someone who’s in my head on a very regular basis, and when you come to Paris, what certainly comes to mind are the fondest memories we had together and the amount of inspiration that he gave not just to me but lots of young kids in Munster and Ireland.”

Peter O’Mahony on the tragic passing of Anthony Foley back in 2016.

Back in 2016, the now 34-year-old spoke at a press conference shortly after the passing of Foley, and he explained then the sort of character that he was, and how much he meant to so many people.

“My first game that he coached me at Munster was an U-20 game at Thomond Park, we won it 3-0 and that suited Axel as good as if we’d won it by 60 or 70. He wanted to win for Munster at any cost.

“Personally,” O’Mahony added, “he meant a huge amount. He’s been there, I haven’t supported a Munster team that he wasn’t involved in. The amount he’s given the club, it can’t be calculated… The amount we’ve lost now that he’s gone, the rugby knowledge; the man, the coach and the friend, it’s huge.”

Saturday promises to be a poignant day for O’Mahony for a plethora of reasons such as representing his country for the 100th time, or playing their neighbouring rivals on the biggest stage of all – but playing for the memory of ‘Axel’ will always be at the forefront of his mind.

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