Tears flow for sporting hero ‘Axel’ Foley

It’s Monday morning and I deliberately turned on Radio One – apologies to Joe Finnegan – because I knew there would be a good bit on it about Anthony Foley and I have to say that the tears flowed as I listened to the various speakers and the tributes that they paid to one of Munster’s greatest-ever heroes.

  It (that type of rugby excitement) has now come to our own province of Connacht, thank God, and on Saturday evening last in the Galway Sportsground there was one of the great European nights, when Connacht beat the French aristocrats, Toulouse in the European Cup, but 10 years ago it was all about Munster and I was lucky enough to be in Cardiff on the greatest sporting occasion that I have experienced when, under the captaincy of the great Axel, the men in red won the then Heineken Cup. Bearing in mind that I was in the same stadium in 2009 when Ireland won the Grand Slam, it’s a big statement to rate the Munster win higher, but as long as I live I will never forget the unbridled joy, happiness and excitement of the Munster supporters.

  I’ve told you before of an amazing Welsh pub, the Mochyn Du in Cardiff, where we have hitched our tent many a time, and the celebrations that went on there that evening were just fantastic. My brother, the Rasher, whose daughter Orla is one of Munster rugby’s greatest supporters and indeed a rugby expert, was there with all his family. My lad Mark was there and it was just great. I have to admit that it’s very hard to accept that the leader of that team is now gone from us at the age of 42 years.

  I never met Anthony Foley, but a story the Rasher told me epitomises the whole ethos of the Munster team at the time. They had played a mickey mouse Celtic League match in Cork on a Friday night under lights and the Rasher had travelled down by bus with a number of others, from Ennis to a sparsely-attended Musgrave Park. On the way back, after a few pit-stops, they pulled into a chipper and as they filed back into their bus with the obligatory snack boxes and fish and chips, they were amazed to be joined on board by three great Munster men, Mick Galwey, Peter Clohessy and Axel Foley.

  The lads were on their way back to Limerick and, realising the bus was full of supporters who had been at the earlier game in Cork, they felt obliged to get on board and thank them for having travelled down to support them.

  That story summed up the special relationship the players had with their followers and today, as they mourn the loss of one of their greatest, it’s hard to figure where Munster rugby goes from here and how they will pick up the pieces.

  Axel’s father, Brendan, was a member of the immortal team that beat the All Blacks in 1978, so he too is a Munster legend, but that’s not a lot of good now. All I can do is express my sympathy to his wife, two young children and all his extended family and heartbroken friends. May he rest in peace.

‘He was like a bad ass!’

It’s Thursday afternoon of last week and during a lull in the upsurge of business that our huge sale has brought in, I happen to take a look out the front window of the shop and I see a mini-drama taking place on the footpath on the other side of the road.

  There are three people involved, the mother and father of a young lad who was maybe 18 months old and who, for some reason has decided he doesn’t want to walk any further! He is on strike, sitting on his hunkers on the footpath and resisting every attempt by his parents to get him to move forward. Every time they make an effort to get him up and walk, he lies on his back – not crying or being in any way bold, just being stubborn, like a bad ass. His mother tries to lift him up by his legs, but all to no avail. He kicks out frantically (like a bad ass) and she gives up and he goes back to lying on the path. Eventually his father just grabs him, not roughly, and picks him up off the path and puts him – the child kicking violently – up on his shoulder and away with them. Now the whole thing only took about five or at most ten minutes but it made me realise how difficult it is nowadays to be politically correct when it comes to raising children.

  Once upon a time a little smack, (and before ye write in and accuse me of condoning violence, let me tell you I most certainly do not), would have solved the problem, but nowadays parents do not and cannot inflict any type of physical punishment on their children. In fairness to the people I saw, they didn’t raise their voices either. If they had taken either of these options, I would have been expected to intervene, so thank God they didn’t, but it showed me how far down the politically correct road we have come.

  As I watched, loads of potential shoppers walked by. Most of them had – like me – a good look, and while they all carried on about their business, the very fact that they were around would have put extra pressure on the parents to sort out the situation, as the young lad was lying on the fairly narrow footpath and therefore in the way, so fair play to them for keeping their cool and dealing with the situation in a controlled and calm manner.

My bank of memories…

Paul Healy’s piece in last week’s paper about the old days when banks didn’t have all these machines that can do almost everything for the customer nowadays and when the cashier was the fulcrum for everything that happened in the bank, brought me back to my own banking days and to the many times I stood in cash boxes in bank branches all over the country.

  For some reason, I wasn’t much good at the other work that went on in the bank, like sorting cheques or doing up customers accounts, but I was a good cashier, and so for the twelve years or so that I spent working in the Bank of Ireland, most of them were spent in the confines of the cash box – and it is safe to say that the cash box was the heart and soul of the bank.

  Now the modern machines have done away with the long queues that were part and parcel of the old banking world, but I can never remember anything other than good craic and banter between customers and staff as they, the customers, stood in queues that on a Friday evening often stretched out to the street. Everything that went on in our customers’ lives would be discussed over the cash desk and it is true to say that we became friends with most of the people that used our services and I got treated to many a pint in many a town solely because of my ability to listen to peoples’ problems and have a chat, while trying to count a ball of money.

  As I say, the whole thing is faster and more streamlined nowadays but I think Paul is right, and it was hard to beat the old personal touch and the bit of a chat was appreciated by a lot of people, particularly country people.

Upcoming Ceilí – and a certain match

Finally for this week, Kevin Kelly has asked me to tell you all about a Ceilí he is running in Kilbegnet Hall on this Saturday night, 22nd of October at 9.30 pm. Music is by the Glenside Ceili Band and Kevin wants you all to come along for a great night’s entertainment. Tea and refreshments will be served and all are welcome.

  Also, earlier on Saturday, our footballers replay their Junior County Final with a Kilglass Gaels team that are now strong favourites to win the tie. I’m still very hopeful that our lads can do the business, so good luck to them and please God our 33-year wait for junior success will come to an overdue end!

Till next week, bye for now