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23rd Oct 2016

Poignant image of Donnacha Ryan paying private tribute to Anthony Foley after Munster victory

This was for you

Patrick McCarry

Donnacha Ryan played like a Munster man possessed on Saturday but he was not the only one.

The Munster lock was part of a team that blew Glasgow Warriors away, just 24 hours after they had buried their head coach Anthony Foley.

The match statistics back up what many of us witnessed at Thomond Park – Ryan took the ball into contact 12 of the 13 times he got his giant paws on it. He wanted to crash into bodies; cause hurt and be hurt. We wanted to feel the sting.

Donnacha Ryan and Rory Hughes 22/10/2016

Ryan played like his old, bruising self and so many other Munster teammates matched his spirit and endeavour in a fantastic 38-17 victory.

As soon as the game was over, many players took a few moments to themselves to bid ‘Axel’ Foley a final farewell.

We took this picture from the stands as the Munster players came over to pay their respects and give thanks for a stunning show of reverence and support.

Donnacha Ryan 3

Looking closely at the picture, long after the stadium had emptied out, we took in Robin Copeland with his right arm raised in victory, Ian Keatley in tears as he applauded the fans, CJ Stander taking a deep breath and the Glasgow players having a huddle of their own, off to one side.

Looking closer still, we spotted Ryan bidding farewell to Axel in his own small way.

Donnacha Ryan 2

A kiss to the heavens – that was for you.

Fellow lock Billy Holland, who had played with Foley before learning from him as a coach said a prayer of his own after the final whistle.

Billy holland says a prayer as the final whistle goes off 22/10//2016

The rousing Stand Up And Fight was still to follow and all that were fortunate enough to witness it, and join in, will never forget that crisp October afternoon when Ryan and his teammates sent Axel off with a bang.

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