Liam Miller game: ‘This is not a match - it is a fundraiser’

The aim of the match is to raise money for the former Ireland international soccer player’s family

Ninety-nine per cent of the country want to see the star-studded Liam Miller testimonial being played at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh has said.

The renowned GAA commentator and broadcaster said allowing the event to go ahead at the 45,000-seater stadium in Cork city would create good will “and above all would boost the fundraising”.

“This is not a match - it is a fundraiser,” he said, referring to a GAA prohibition on games other than those under its control being played in its stadiums and grounds.

Mr Ó Muircheartaigh told RTÉ Radio One: "The GAA prides itself on being a community-based organisation, on a very high level, but for this, the entire Cork community, they are all together, they would love to see this happening.

“So would, I would say, 99 per cent of the people all over the country.”

The GAA had ruled out moving the testimonial from the smaller Turner’s Cross stadium, which sold out within minutes on Friday, to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but said on Saturday it is willing to meet with organisers to discuss it.

Former Ireland international soccer player Mr Miller died from oesophageal cancer aged 36 this year.

The game - a Manchester United Legends XI managed by Roy Keane and featuring Ryan Giggs, Denis Irwin, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand taking on a Glasgow Celtic/Republic of Ireland selection including Robbie Keane, Damian Duff, Kenny Cunningham and Kevin Kilbane - will raise money for Mr Miller's widow Clare and three children.

Former Cork GAA manager Billy Morgan said it would also be a great opportunity to show off Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“It is a fabulous stadium and I think it would stand up with anything in Europe, particularly with all these superstars coming over, to show them what we in the GAA can achieve,” he said.

“I just hope at the end of the day common sense prevails.”

Developer Michael O’Flynn, a family friend and neighbour of the Millers who is organising the testimonial, said he originally approached the Cork county board about hosting the event at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“When I approached the county board they were receptive to the idea, they were open to it… they discussed it with Croke Park, and unfortunately there was a rule issue that came up,” he said.

“So we just went ahead [with Turner’s Cross] on the basis that this couldn’t be accommodated.”

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was very keen to have the event in Dublin at one point, because of the expected interest, but “fully respected our wishes to have it in Cork.”

“We think it is unique Cork event,” he added.

While he was hopeful about fresh talks with the GAA, he said he did not want to be in any way pre-emptive.

Mr Flynn said Mr Miller’s widow Clare and mother Bridie told him at the weekend they were humbled by the support of people.

“Clearly they don’t want controversy. They are a very quiet family, they don’t want any controversy,” he added.

Lord Mayor of Cork Mick Finn has said GAA rules apparently preventing the tribute at Páirc Uí Chaoimh do not apply as it is community event rather than a scheduled soccer fixture.

“The GAA has its own rules, I’m a GAA person myself, I worked for the association, I was a schools coach and I am involved in my own local club, and I understand that the rules apply across the board,” he said.

“But I suppose the difference here is that I consider this a community event, not a scheduled match, not an FAI-led match or UEFA game.

“This is a community event in support of a family, and I’d be appealing to the GAA authorities, to their sense of community. There is no other sporting organisation in Ireland that has a better sense of community than the GAA.”

Mr Finn told RTÉ Radio One: “The rules in this instance maybe don’t apply and if they do, I think there could be a way around it in this particular instance.”

Tickets for the game on September 25th at the 7,300-capacity Turner’s Cross in Cork sold out within minutes of going on sale on Friday.

It is understood that the decision by the GAA to organise the meeting follows a lot of behind activity behind the scenes by some senior Government figures including Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Cork Fine Gael Senator, Jerry Buttimer as well as Fianna Fail leader, Micheál Martin.