Liam Miller benefit should be held at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, says Kelly

Former GAA president and Micheál Martin urge solution to impasse over soccer match

Liam Miller in action for Ireland against Colombia in a friendly in London in 2008. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Liam Miller in action for Ireland against Colombia in a friendly in London in 2008. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

 

Former GAA president Seán Kelly, who led efforts to open up Croke Park for rugby and soccer, has backed calls for Páirc Uí Chaoimh to host the Liam Miller benefit match in September.

However, the GAA on Friday night said it was prohibited under its rules from hosting games other than those under its control in its stadiums and grounds and this could only be changed by GAA Congress in February.

The Cork County Committee and Central Council have no discretion in this matter, it said: “Only a change at annual congress can alter this situation. Congress takes place in February each year.”

While Taoiseach Leo Varadkar declined to be drawn on the controversy, Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, however, backed the call for Páirc Uí Chaoimh to be made available for the charity game.

“The GAA is rooted in community. Liam Miller and family are of our community. Páirc Uí­ Chaoimh is underpinned by our community. The unique event organised to reflect that community ethos and to honour Liam Miller should be held in Páirc Uí ­Chaoimh,” tweeted Mr Martin.

Tickets for the game on September 25th between a Manchester United Legends XI and a Celtic/Republic of Ireland XI at the 7,300 capacity Turner’s Cross in Cork sold out within minutes of going on sale on Friday.

Meanwhile, the GAA insisted that it is compliant with the rules governing the €30 million State grant that met a significant part of the costs of building Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Then, an 11-page document made clear that the stadium “could be rented out to other field sports”, and would be open “to various users on a non-discriminatory and transparent basis”.

However, the GAA said it had taken legal advice about the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment and “believes it is compliant with the terms and conditions laid down in September 2016”.

Mr Kelly, who is now a Fine Gael MEP, said that he hoped a solution could be found before the game to honour the former Ireland international footballer, who died from cancer aged 36 this year, is held.

“It is important to emphasise that Páirc Uí Chaoimh are not making the decision in this case. They are taking guidance from headquarters who are saying their hands are tied, which is unfortunate, because I think the majority of the grassroots would like to see the facility being made available,” said Mr Kelly.

The broader issue could be addressed at next February’s annual congress, which could lay down protocols to clarify the special circumstances that would apply for future one-off events, he said.

There have been calls for the Liam Miller benefit match to be played at Páirc Uí Chaoimh given its 45,000 capacity in comparison to 7,300 at Turner’s Cross. File photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
There have been calls for the Liam Miller benefit match to be played at Páirc Uí Chaoimh given its 45,000 capacity in comparison to 7,300 at Turner’s Cross. File photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Separately, the Department of Sport, which has not been contacted by the match organisers, pointedly noted that public money had helped develop the stadium.

“The redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh received an allocation of €30 million. In accordance with the conditions of the grant, the department is monitoring the use of the facility and is liaising with Cork County Board on this issue.”

The GAA Congress agreed that a series of its grounds around the island, including in Belfast, would have hosted 2023 Rugby World Cup matches had Ireland been successful in its bid to host the games.