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Rovers have not received full credit

Eamonn Sweeney is, in my opinion, one of our greatest sports writers. Every Sunday morning, the back page of the sports supplement is the first page I go to, and I have always been entertained, informed and gained great pleasure from reading his work.

Like Michael Dowling [Have Your Say, Dec 18] I was surprised at the fact that Eamonn would use the success of Apoel Nicosia to have a go at Shamrock Rovers. To become the first Irish club to qualify for the group stages of a European competition is a huge achievement.

Remember, we live in a country where the vast majority of football fans support British teams and there is wall-to-wall coverage of British football in newspapers, on television and on websites.

I personally feel Rovers haven't received the full credit and recognition their achievements deserve. Neither have St Patrick's Athletic, who have won through two rounds of European football in three of the last four campaigns -- under three different managers and virtually three different squads of players.

Sligo Rovers, Pat's and Rovers are all back in Europe next summer. Hopefully Pat's and Rovers can continue the recent good work and Sligo can try and match them.

Mark Cummins

O'Rourke blind to real fairness issue

Colm O'Rourke makes the case for a redistribution of the counties into four provinces of eight to compete in the All-Ireland senior football championship in the interest of making competitions fair [Dec 18].

His interest in fairness is admirable but his method seems a little blind. It reminds me of the man who had bad sight. He wanted to impress his girlfriend so he went out the road during the day and stuck a pin in a bush. That evening, while walking out with the girl, he pointed to the bush and said, "Look! A pin". When she couldn't see it he undertook to show her where it was and tripped over a cow lying on his path.

It would take more than the movement of a few counties to make the competition fair. Dublin has 1.3 million people. Cork has over half a million, Meath 184,000, Kerry 145,000, Galway 251,000, Donegal 161,000, Monaghan 60,000, Carlow 55,000, Longford 39,000 and Leitrim 32,000 inhabitants. These counties have not even roughly comparable numbers of young men from which to pick a team. Manpower is not the only factor but finance is important also, as we heard recently what running a team costs. The number of businesses with high finances who can assist teams is not evenly distributed either. What odds would you get against Carlow, Longford or Leitrim for this year's championship?

The Ulster counties are generally smaller than Munster and the population cannot be compared because of the nationalist/unionist divide. In the past 50 years only Offaly and some Ulster teams have broken the mould in winning a first Sam Maguire Cup. The schools' PE facilities and the work of a few extraordinary individuals have been a factor in Ulster successes. But if we are interested in fairness we will have to think a bit more.

Pádraig McGinn

Clubs losing out

to trophy projects

Congratulations to Eamonn Sweeney on an excellent article which very accurately describes the situation in most counties [Dec 18].

We are continually told the GAA is putting so much into the grassroots. What this means is that money has been given to county boards who then spend it on grandiose schemes that will either never come to fruition or will make little or no impact at club level. In most cases their ambition will outstretch their resources and they will then turn to clubs to raise the difference and, as Peter White so clearly puts it, "every club is struggling to make ends meet".

If the GAA is really serious when it says it is giving funds to its grassroots and that the club is the core of the organisation then it should insist that county boards pass on the grassroots money directly to the clubs. This will never happen because it would mean the people with the power to make it happen denying themselves the funds to even start their trophy projects.

Aidan Hamill

England should

follow IRFU line

I welcome the determination of the IRFU to protect Irish rugby by limiting (not excluding) the number of foreign players eligible to play for the provinces at any one time. We have always produced great players in Ireland, but if they are to develop they must have opportunities at the highest levels (as so many Englishmen in England do not). Let us hope the English RFU makes similar efforts in support of the game in England.

Gerald Morgan

Sunday Indo Sport