Wednesday 16 October 2019

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Schools farce sums up soccer nosedive

In 1967, Bayern Munich, with four future World Cup winners on board, scraped past Shamrock Rovers 4-3 on aggregate in the Cup Winners' Cup.

In 1969, Dundalk disposed of Utrecht of Holland in the equivalent of the Europa League. Utrecht were ranked three in Holland. Numbers one and two, Ajax and Feyenoord, went on to contest the 1969, '70, '71, '72, '73 European Cup finals, winning it four times. The League of Ireland went into decline and has never pulled out of the nosedive since.

Forget Shamrock Rovers' fluke against Red Star. Subsequent results have shown the divide. Look instead at Apoel from Cyprus topping a Champions League group on a budget of £10m, the wage of a Manchester City reserve player.

Where and why the League of Ireland went wrong can be debated infinitum. Reading Marie Crowe's piece on the harsh penalties meted out to schools that for one reason or another missed out on competitions over technical paper issues, we find perhaps a clue to the morass the league is in.

The bottom line is simple. Let the kids play, stop the red tape and remember this: it's only a game. We have seen what 'success' has done to certain teams. Proud names like Bohemians, Shelbourne, Drogheda all succumbed after so-called 'success'.

Soccer is a simple game that should be enjoyed. Stop the red tape, the petty rules and lumping all our fortunes on a workmanlike international side that papers over serious cracks in our system.

The top guns in the Premiership no longer boast an Irish boy at first-team level. But the GAA and the rugby will spit on their hands and say thanks very much for the talent from the schools who were turfed out. No amount of free tickets or free bars in Europe will bring those kids back.

John Cuffe

Keane inspired the Sunderland revival

While I thought Dion Fanning's piece 'Life's No Joke When The Only Hot Seat Left Is In A TV Studio' [Dec 4] was a good read, his comment about Roy Keane's failure in management was unfair and incorrect.

When Keano took over at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland were bottom of the Championship and looked to be heading towards football oblivion. In comes the Corkman and he leads us to becoming champions of the Championship and this from a rookie manager. The next season he kept us in the Premiership and for a club that was constantly referred to as a yo-yo club that was no mean feat. Okay, his departure was not great but I felt that if Keane had managed to get a more experienced assistant manager (eg Brian Kidd), things could have been very different.

I prefer to remember Roy Keane's reign on Wearside in postive terms and I am convinced Sunderland would not have been able to attract a manager of the stature of Martin O'Neill if it had not been for the foundations that Keano laid on the roller-coaster of excitement he created.

Tony Ratton

Hoops' Europa feat not to be sniffed at

The success of Apoel Nicosia in reaching the last 16 of the Champions League is, indeed, a marvellous achievement. For a club of that size from a league that is not heralded to be there with the elite European teams is remarkable. It is a great example of what a small club can do if it is run properly and if everyone pulls together, and should act as an inspiration to all clubs of similar size.

So I thought it was surprising that Eamonn Sweeney used it as a stick to beat Shamrock Rovers with [Dec 11]. The standard of the League of Ireland has always been well below most leagues in Europe. It faces huge challenges due to lack of coverage, small attendances, and the fact that most clubs have financial difficulties. The people involved with clubs are always anxious to get as much support as possible as they struggle against the relative apathy of the Irish public.

It was a monumental achievement for Shamrock Rovers to reach the group stages of the Europa League. It has been a source of great pride for me that a major European competition is featuring an Irish club.

Mr Sweeney's comment that, compared with Apoel, 'Shamrock Rovers' feat of reaching the Europa League knockout stages and compiling the worst record there doesn't seem quite so impressive now, does it?' was staggering in its dismissal of Rovers' achievement.

If, for example, an Irish person unexpectedly reaches an Olympic final next summer, it will be a phenomenal achievement, and will not be diminished if he or she finishes last in that final. Lest it be forgotten, no Irish club has ever done what Shamrock Rovers have done and it is no shame that they have struggled. Last season Spurs were in the last eight in Europe and Rovers gave them a good game in London, while Rubin Kazan drew with Barcelona last year and won at the Nou Camp the year before that.

Michael Dowling

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