GAA players support holding Liam Miller tribute match in Páirc Uí Chaoimh

Late Miller’s Éire Óg clubmates in favour of higher-capacity stadium

The GAA should allow the Liam Miller Tribute Match take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, according to four All-Ireland medal winners from the Éire Óg club where Miller played underage hurling and football before embarking on a professional soccer career with Glasgow Celtic.

Cork All-Ireland football medal winners, Daniel Goulding and Ciaran Sheehan joined with Cork All-Ireland winning hurlers, Mick Malone and Colm Sheehan to back the campaign to allow the Liam Miller benefit match take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in September.

The organisers of the game between a Manchester United Legends XI managed by Roy Keane and featuring former stars such as Denis Irwin, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand against a Glasgow Celtic/Republic of Ireland selection are hoping the GAA will change its mind on the game.

Holding the game at Páirc Uí Chaoimh,which has a capacity of 45,000 as opposed to Turner Cross which has a capacity of just 7,300, would allow thousands more fans attend the game while raising funds for Miller's family and Marymount Hospice where he died in February from cancer.

It’s a move backed by Éire Óg’s most famous Gaelic footballers and hurlers with solicitor, Mick Malone, an All-Ireland hurling medal winner in both 1976 and 1977, saying he can see no reason why the game cannot proceed at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“I think it’s correct to have the rule about the GAA controlling its own grounds because if you didn’t you would have every second soccer and rugby club arguing that their local GAA field should be made available to them and we are in competition with them as sporting bodies,” he said.

“But I can see no logical reason in the rules why this game should be refused– it’s only a fun game with retired players – there are no current players lining out so it’s not a competitive match. It’s a once-off benefit game and I hope they allow it go ahead down Páirc Uí Chaoimh.”

Mr Malone’s clubmate, Colm Sheehan, who scored three goals in the 1966 All-Ireland hurling final when Cork beat Kilkenny, echoed the sentiment, pointing out that Liam Miller was a fine hurler and footballer with Éire Óg and was part of the local community in Ovens.

“I believe the game should go ahead in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Liam Miller played with Glasgow Celtic and Manchester United but was playing underage with Éire Óg long before that and he also played under-14 hurling with Cork and we’re very proud of him here in Éire Óg.”

Daniel Goulding and Ciaran Sheehan, who won All-Ireland football medals with Cork in 2010, were also equally convinced that the GAA should open Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the tribute game, particularly in light of the fact it’s once off fundraising game for Liam Miller’s family.

“It’s unfortunate the GAA have backed themselves into a corner here. It’s a charity event for no purpose other than to raise funds for the family of a man who tragically passed away at a young age and I hope the GAA come to the right decision and let the game go ahead,” said Mr Goulding.

Speaking from Australia, Ciaran Sheehan was equally supportive: " I think it's a wonderful opportunity to pay our respects to a great sportsman. Obviously his soccer career was his main career but he was a big part of Éire Óg GAA club and the local GAA community too."

The GAA said that it will consider the proposal further after a meeting between GAA president, John Horan, director general Tom Ryan, Cork county board chairman, Tracey Kennedy and Cork county secretary, Frank Murphy with the Liam Miller benefit game organisers yesterday.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times