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Dublin: 4°C Thursday 13 May 2021
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'It's just unthinkable that one of the real rugby greats is no more'

Brian O’Driscoll shared his memories of Anthony Foley this evening.

O'Driscoll is congratulated by 'Axel' after scoring in Paris back in 2000.
O'Driscoll is congratulated by 'Axel' after scoring in Paris back in 2000.
Image: Tom Honan/INPHO

BRIAN O’DRISCOLL WAS preparing to appear on BT Sport’s Champions Cup coverage yesterday afternoon when he heard the devastating, incomprehensible, news.

“I was travelling over [to London] and I turned on my phone having landed in City Airport,” O’Driscoll explained.

“We’ve a BT Whatsapp group and I saw lots of them coming in but I didn’t see the original. I just saw ‘terrible news’, ‘that’s awful’ and I just read from the bottom up to the top and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I read the opening one.

“It’s appallingly sad. I thought about doing BT and doing a pre-record and get through that but I thought even if I managed to get through that, trying to analyse a game with that in the back of your mind is madness. I couldn’t think of anything else.”

In an emotional and moving interview on Newstalk’s Off the Ball tonight, the former Ireland captain recalled his days alongside Foley in the dressing room. O’Driscoll revealed how Foley supported him when he was appointed captain at the age of 23.

“I must have had 50-odd caps with him,” he continued. “We played an awful lot of games [together]. He was very important to me. He was part of that three tries in Paris and our victory over there. We had some really big and important days in the same jersey.

Anthoney Foley celebrates with Brian O'Driscoll The pair celebrate Ireland's win over South Africa in 2004. Source: INPHO

“And then he became very important to me from a captaincy point of view. I was given the captaincy, probably in place of him, when [Keith] Wood was injured prior to the World Cup in 2003 and I was chosen by Eddie [O'Sullivan].

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“He could have thrown the toys out of the cot, but he did anything but. He became a very important leader within the team, helping me along. I think that early relationship really benefited me in that we did have a mutual respect. There were no frills to Axel.

“He was very up front. He wasn’t a sugar-coater. I like people that aren’t sugar-coaters.

“It’s just unthinkable that one of the real rugby greats is no more.”

Listen to the full interview here>

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‘A legend. What more can you say?’: Fans gather to pay tribute to Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley

Analysis: Axel was the team-mate every player wanted on their side

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Ryan Bailey

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