IF we needed a reminder of how seriously our readers are about sport, it came last week in the shape of the reaction to our coverage of the controversy sparked by the decision not to cite Paul O'Connell following Munster's Pro12 clash with Leinster. Unfortunately, we are unable to publish every letter and email we received, but we have a selection which accurately represents the feedback from those who agreed or disagreed with the views of Neil Francis, Jim Glennon and Eamonn Sweeney. Like Saipan, the issue divided the nation. And like Saipan it confirmed once more that sport matters.
Further to last Sunday's double-page rugby section, I'm surprised you didn't sacrifice the results section as it would have given you more space to bash Paul O'Connell. It was disappointing that you didn't include a counter-argument instead of all having the one opinion.
The extreme views of Neil Francis in particular were way over the top. He starts by saying to take off the red or blue jersey but the bias in his views is obvious when he asks us to imagine if it was an English forward that kicked Keith Earls.
Of course David Kearney could have been seriously injured but unfortunately serious injury is a possibility in any rugby match these days. Demanding a public act of contrition is utter nonsense.
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It is important that someone reported the Paul O'Connell incident truthfully as you did. A few weeks ago it was Brian O'Driscoll. It's as if they are trying to get attention for the Lions tour! Paul O'Connell being the fine person he is will suffer enough for his action. Coming to the IRFU it is a different matter. They are a negative force to the game of rugby.
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Neil Francis is to be commended on his excellent article. As a coach of under 7s rugby at Naas RFC, safety is always the main priority when coaching and reffing matches. For this reader the highlights of the 2011 Rugby World Cup were the convincing and impressive win by Ireland over Australia and the sending-off of Sam Warburton, the Welsh captain, against France which was paramount to the safety of kids and the credibility of the sport.
Mr Rolland's bravery in sending off the player was in direct contrast to the cowardice of the South African citing officer who returned home after the first Lions Test in New Zealand in 2005, failing to cite the New Zealand players for their spear-tackle of Brian O'Driscoll.
Professional sport is very brutal and ruthless in its treatment of its players and participants. It is up to the administrations of these professional sports to protect their greatest assets, ie its players from foul and dangerous play.
Paul O'Connell is a gentleman and an excellent player. However, his reckless kick should have been cited in the same manner as the citing of Brian O'Driscoll and Cian Healy during the recent Six Nations campaign. As it was not an intentional act of malice by Paul O'Connell, the likelihood of a ban was not high.
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The coverage of this incident was completely over the top by your so-called expert rugby reporters. Paul O'Connell is not a dirty player and should not be subject to this form of gutter press. Whereas I feel for Kearney, there was no intent in O'Connell's actions.
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As a former player and long-time follower of rugby, at all levels, I am writing to express my appreciation for Neil Francis' excellent article on the O'Connell/Kearney incident. I have felt frustrated and angry with the incident, lack of action, semantics, blaming the rules etc. However, you captured all the salient points in your article and this will be a permanent record of the incident and I've no doubt that it was welcomed by all genuine followers of the game here and abroad.
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Open letter to Jim Glennon:
Last Sunday saw the demonisation of Paul O'Connell, probably Ireland's greatest second row forward ever, in a most concerted manner by the Sunday Independent.
Unlike your colleagues, you at least tried to bring some reason to the most unfortunate incident involving David Kearney to whom all true sports followers send their best wishes for a speedy return to the playing fields.
The only problem I have with your analysis is that, like all other commentators, I feel you are not consistent when commenting on other incidents of a similar nature and that in making your general point about reckless and dangerous play, you have personalised it to Paul O'Connell and made a scapegoat of him for the sins of many others.
The incidence of concussion (occasioned by whatever means) and foul play is widespread in rugby and I would like to bring your attention to two particularly notable incidents earlier this season but which appear to have escaped your, and your colleagues', radar for whatever reason.
In a Rabo league game, the Munster wing-forward Niall Ronan was rendered unconscious and badly injured while he was head-down and scrapping (legally) for possession in a ruck. Then we had the Cian Healy incident in the English game where he could so easily have broken the leg of Dan Cole in a most dangerous tackle. And now I read that Cian Healy has been shortlisted as IRUPA Player of the Year. Do you feel that Healy merits such an accolade? I would welcome your views on that one.
In conclusion, we all wish to see the outlawing of reckless and foul play but we also need consistency and openness in identifying the culprits rather than the demonisation of one player from one province.
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I am writing to you in connection with Neil Francis' article, 'A Matter of Life and Death'.
Rugby is, and always has been, a game of respect. That is no different here in Munster. The players that wear the Munster jersey have huge respect for themselves, for each other, for their supporters, for the crest they play for, and, though Mr Francis seems unwilling to believe it, for the opposition, whoever they may be.
Paul O'Connell has nothing but respect for the Leinster team and David Kearney. He would never intentionally kick a man in the head. Perhaps Mr Francis could do well by visiting Thomond Park more regularly to witness the respect shown there.
Of course, I would never look fondly upon foul play. I wish to rid the game of spiteful and cynical behaviour as much as anyone would. However, I am willing to put the judgement between right and wrong into the hands of the referees and citing commissioners and trust them to do what is right.
Mr Francis said that Paul O'Connell "did himself no favours when he was quoted last week". May I point out that neither did Mr Francis do himself any favours in comparing O'Connell to a terrorist.
Unlike Mr Francis, I apologise if I have caused any offence. This letter to you is one in defence of a jersey I too would die for. As I stated, rugby is a game of respect. If Mr Francis cannot write about my players and my province with respect, I suggest he would not write about them at all.
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Great credit is due to Eamonn Sweeney and Tommy Conlon for the straight-from-the-shoulder quality of their reports on the back page of the Sunday Independent.
Their forthright and honest appraisal of some of the problems blighting the Irish sporting scene puts them in the same company as those other two Irish sporting journalists of renown, namely, Paul Kimmage and David Walsh. Indeed, more of this style of journalism was to be found on the inside pages, under the name of Neil Francis.