Republic of Ireland news

GAA stars and politicians pile pressure on Cork County Board to open Páirc Uí Chaoimh for a charity match to honour Republic of Ireland star Liam Miller.

Liam Miller, who played for Eire Og GAC in Cork, pictured at Páirc Uí Chaoimh holding a trophy with team mates. Picture via social media

GAA stars and politicians are piling pressure on Cork County Board to open its home stadium for a charity match to honour former Republic of Ireland star Liam Miller.

The Celtic, Manchester United, Cork City and Ireland midfielder died of cancer aged 36 in February.

Permission had been sought to hold a benefit soccer match for the father-of-three at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which has a 45,000 capacity - maximising the money it would collect for his grieving family and local charities.

However, it is understood that the county board said only a rule change at GAA congress could allow the match to proceed at the ground and the next one will not be held until February 2019.

Soccer is banned as it is not one of the organisation's own field sports.

The match has been moved to the 7,000 capacity Turners Cross where former Republic of Ireland captain Roy Keane will manage a Manchester United Legends team including Denis Irwin, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Jaap Stam, Rio Ferdinand, Louis Saha and Quentin Fortune against a combined Celtic/Ireland side on September 25.

The latter will be coached by Martin O'Neill and feature the Republic's leading goalscorer, Robbie Keane, and winger Damian Duff.

But there has been an outcry, with GAA football and hurling stars Tomás Ó Sé and Dónal Óg Cusack among those demanding that the organisation relax its controversial Rule 42 for the event.

Ó Sé took to social media to lament that "even though Cork county board were open to letting the Liam Miller testimonial match go ahead in Páirc Uí Chaiomh (45,000) they can't use it and it will be in Turners Cross (7,000) my God".

Cusack said the county board "are bigger than this" and should "welcome the Liam Miller game with open arms".

Politicians have also united across party lines to call for the match to be restored to the larger GAA ground.

Fianna Fail leader and Cork South Central TD Micheál Martin said: "The GAA is rooted in community. Liam Miller and family are of our community. Páirc Uí Chaoimh 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."

His colleague Michael McGrath said the GAA had "missed a golden opportunity ... (to) show the true values of the GAA".

Labour party councillor Peter Horgan has written to the "secretary of each county board in the GAA today to ask if they have an objection to Páirc Uí Chaoimh being opened for the Liam Miller charity match".

"I fully believe that this can happen as a gesture of community goodwill outside of the rules of Congress," he said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Cork South Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has written to "the Ard Chomhairle of the (GAA) seeking that exception be made, and that the Liam Miller tribute match can be played at Páirc Uí Chaoimh".

"In the circumstances I believe it is possible, and more than appropriate," he said.


GAA fans have been pointing out that while Miller played for local club Eire Og, musician Ed Sheeran had been granted permission to stage a "€2 million concert" there despite never "togging out".

Meanwhile, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said "when funding is granted for the redevelopment of places like Páirc Uí Chaoimh, it should be expected that communities can use the stadium for events like the Liam Miller charity match", saying it was "disappointing that the GAA won't budge on this".

It has been calculated that the money collected will be almost €2m less than it would have been at the bigger venue.

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