GAA approves Páirc Uí Chaoimh tribute match for Liam Miller
Association had said it was prohibited in rule from hosting soccer game in Cork stadium
Senior GAA officials are today expected to recommend that a tribute soccer match for the late Liam Miller (pictured) can go ahead at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/INPHO.
The association last week insisted it was prohibited from hosting games other than those under its control in its stadiums but its officials on Saturday decided the match could be staged at the ground. The move has been widely welcomed.
Miller (36) died in February from oesophageal cancer and the organisers of the match hope to raise funds for his widow, Clare, and children, Kory, Leo and Belle. Some of the proceeds will also go to Marymount Hospice in Cork.
Tickets for the September 25th game between a Manchester Utd Legends XI and a Celtic/Republic of Ireland XI, which had been scheduled for the 7,300-seater Turner’s Cross, sold out within minutes.
In a joint statement on Saturday, the GAA and the tribute organisers said the match would go ahead at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and that there would also be a GAA event as part of the occasion.
A GAA source confirmed to The Irish Times that the full proceeds will go to the organisers of the benefit match and it will be at their discretion what other charitable causes benefit.
“The details will be finalised in the coming weeks,” the groups said. “The GAA would like to wish the family of Liam Miller and the organisers every success in their efforts.”
Michael O’Flynn, a property developer and chairman of the organising committee, thanked the GAA for making the venue available. He met GAA president John Horan and its director general Tom Ryan at Croke Park earlier this week.
“I am delighted with the decision and I really appreciate the GAA considering this request in the way that they have over the last week and I have to commend all involved for agreeing to give us Páirc Uí Chaoimh - it will greatly help our cause and indeed other causes.”
Political pressure had been mounting on the association in recent days over its refusal to make Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which was recently renovated at a cost of €80 million, available for the benefit game for Miller, who played for teams including Celtic, Manchester Utd and the Republic of Ireland during his career.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during the week pointed out that the stadium “is there with the help of €30 million of taxpayers money, and those are taxpayers who play all forms of sport and none”.
It is understood that senior Government figures also pointed out to the GAA that refusing to provide the venue for the game could have an impact on future grants to the association, which last year received almost €17 million under the Sports Capital Programme.
The decision was welcomed by Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister for Sport Shane Ross and Minister of State Brendan Griffin.
“The Government was delighted to contribute to the redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh and always viewed it as an asset for all of the people of Cork,” Mr Ross said. “With this charity event now taking place in September, thousands of additional sports supporters will have an opportunity to experience the magnificent venue for themselves .”
In Cork, the was welcomed by the Lord Mayor Cllr Mick Finn, who is hosting a banquet in Cork City Hall after the tribute game to raise funds for the Millers and for Marymount Hospice.
“I am delighted for the Miller family and all involved in the event that the game can now be opened up to a much bigger support base after common sense has won the day and I applaud the GAA authorities for making this common sense decision within the parameters of their own rules,” he said.
“It’s easy for the social media experts to castigate the GAA - some of the criticism levelled has been rooted in ignorance of what the association means to people - but it has its rules and don’t forget it was the avenue in which Liam first came to sporting prominence.”
He said the controversy “cannot have been easy for Liam’s family to see and hear every day and I hope a line can now be drawn under it” and that people unite in support of the family and the hospice.
Cllr Finn said he the larger capacity at Páirc Uí Chaoimh would allow for different pricing brackets which would open up the event to the unemployed, pensioners, students and school children. Tickets for the game at Turners Cross had been priced at a standard €50 without any concessions.
The GAA and organisers said further information relating to ticket arrangements - including those purchased already for Turner’s Cross - would be finalised on Monday and made public shortly afterwards.