GAA felt ‘bullied’ into hosting Liam Miller tribute match
‘We found a way around our own rules. That is something I am still very uncomfortable with’
The Liam Miller Tribute Match, which saw a Celtic & Ireland Legends side take on a Manchester United Legends selection, at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in September. Photograph: Inpho
The tribute event was organised to raise funds for the family of the late Ireland soccer international. Originally fixed for Cork City’s ground in Turner’s Cross, the match was eventually held in the county GAA stadium after a public campaign to allow the bigger venue to be used.
Ryan was at pains to state that his reservations were “secondary” in the context of the Miller family benefiting from the event and he also emphasised that “all involved were doing things for the best of reasons”.
He was making the comments in his first annual report, which will be presented to February’s annual congress, to be held in Wexford.
“Much of the clamour that arose,” he writes, “amounted to demands for us just to ignore own standards and indeed our decision makers. To ignore the rule or find a loophole and host the game.
“As a body charged with trying to uphold standards we should not be in the business of finding ways around our own rules . . .
“Nonetheless as the days progressed it became evident that not ‘to find a way’ would only do the association more reputational damage, however unjustified. So that is what we did - we found a way around our own rules. That is something I am still very uncomfortable with.”
He says that Central Council, who after a hastily convened meeting green-lighted the event, weren’t “enthusiastic about the outcome we reached, the overwhelming sentiment being that we felt we had been bullied into a course of action that we might well have taken anyway if given the chance.
“There was an inference at the time that the GAA should be under some moral if not legal compulsion to allow the use of our pitches for other sports because the association or the specific pitch had received public funding. This is not factually correct and is not morally defensible.
“Any funding we receive is and should continue to be predicated solely on the intrinsic value of Gaelic games. I am not aware of any other sporting organisation being assessed on the degree to which it promotes rival sports.
“And nor should they be.”