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Weekend TV Review: Sky's Coverage Of Anthony Foley's Passing Struck The Right Tone

Weekend TV Review: Sky's Coverage Of Anthony Foley's Passing Struck The Right Tone
Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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This column had initially planned to complain about the splintering of the Champions Cup across two subscription channels, but then that doesn't matter.

The absurd notion that Anthony Foley could be plucked from the world at the age of 42 broke during the first-half of Ulster's game with Bordeaux. The game was live on Sky, and the broadcaster was left in a difficult situation of trying to fathom the news minutes before broadcasting it.

This is not news to be digested; it is to be not understood. Were it to be understood, then life would not be worth living.

Were it to be understood, then life would not be worth living.

Alan Quinlan naturally left the studio to return home upon hearing of the death of his friend, leaving Tyrone Howe and presenter James Gemmell.

Upon the return from the ad break, an image of Foley adorned the screen for minutes, as Gemmell informed viewers of the news, dolefully reading the IRFU statement.

anthony foley announcement


Gemmell's voice quivered as he read the statement, and he stammered when he read out Foley's age, as if the enormity of the situation had just hit home. He then admitted that there was nothing to do but ask Tyrone Howe for his reaction.

Howe gazed to the floor, collected his thoughts, choked back tears, and proceeded to issue a tight-throated but eloquent tribute to the memory of Foley. Howe described Foley as a "big man", but not the kind of big man cultivated in a gym. No, Foley was a man of huge personality, of towering generosity.

Watch it below.


Sky then cut live to Stuart Barnes in Paris, who too issued a fine tribute to Foley, including this poignant statement:

He came out of the soil of Munster. It is a terrible sadness that he's going back into that soil too early.

More tributes followed after the game. David Wallace appeared down a phone line. Donal Lenihan spoke wonderfully of how, when making his Ireland debut alongside Foley's father Brendan, he can still recall the image of an eight-year-old Anthony Foley sitting in the dressing room, waving a homemade tricolour.

Sky did not discuss the Bordeaux/Ulster game, instead they celebrated the memory of Foley, words interposed with moving scenes of Munster fans mourning in songs laced with poetic emptiness.

This column is regularly cynical and sarcastic about Sky; it's easy to ridicule much of their coverage as being too rigidly rehearsed, more focused on ostentation than observation. Yesterday, they struck the right tone, and this is a testament to the professionalism of all involved.


But it is a testament to Anthony Foley, too.


The atmosphere in the studio was incredibly raw, and it was clear to see how deeply Anthony Foley had touched the lives of all those who spoke on air.  Given the fact that Howe and Barnes spoke within minutes of learning the news, this was no staged act of grief.

This was deep and heartfelt; it was genuine.


Proof, then, of how great a man Anthony Foley was, and how he had touched the lives of all those who spoke, and countless others who watched on in dumb grief.

They spoke of a man made great by rugby, but also of rugby made great by a man.



For a concept like the provinces to work in the professional era, they needed a man like Anthony Foley to prove it was worth standing up and fighting for.

The writer of this column once believed that the finest sentence about sport ever written was by Hugh McIlvanney, about George Best. Here it is.

Sport at its finest is often poignant, if only because it is almost a caricature of the ephemerality of human achievements.

Now, I'm not so sure.

For the name of Anthony Foley will echo forever.


Best Dressed Pundit of the Week 

Congratulations, Ian Wright.

anthony foley tv tribute

Super Sunday? 

Sky's viewing figures for live Premier League games have slid by 19% this season, a considerable worry given the fact they've just paid more than £5 billion for the privilege of showing them. One problem might be the extra slots they now have: add Friday night football to Saturday morning, Monday night and Sunday afternoon.

This has seen a number of heavyweight clashes taken away from Super Sunday, traditionally the backbone of Sky's coverage. you can't help get the feeling that figures would improve if Sunday afternoons were given games more enticing than Middlesborough/Watford.

Corporate Tax

Connacht's wonderful victory over Toulouse saw the GAA tradition of 'lads standing in the background of interviews gawking at the camera' interrupted by the positioning of a board bearing sponsors' names. We're not entirely sure what to think of it.


See Also: Weekend TV Review: There's A New RTE Panel In Town, And It's Bloody Good 


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