Bilbao set an example to be followed

Tonight, Athletic Bilbao will take on Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final in Bucharest.

Outside of the fact that the football will likely be thrilling and many of the players may well prove Euro 2012 opponents, it isn't too relevant for Ireland.

•But it's worth considering the exact context of Bilbao. As is well known, they only play Basque players or those who were born or descended from the Basque country -- a region with 3m people. No foreigners, or even Spaniards, are bought in.

In other words, they are effectively an international team.

•But that hasn't stopped them becoming a hugely effective club team, even going toe to toe with Barcelona.

In the long-term, why can't Ireland even mimic them? Basque players, after all, are not inherently or genetically better. All it takes is to do what they have done: proper planning, coaching... and patience.