The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has come under fire for refusing to allow a tribute match in memory of the late Liam Miller to be played at a Gaelic games stadium.
The match will feature a number of Miller’s former team mates from club and country including Damien Duff, Ryan Giggs, Robbie Keane and Paul Scholes, with Roy Keane playing and coaching one team with Irish national team boss Martin O’Neill taking charge of the other.
Organisers of the game, which will be used to raise funds for Miller’s family following his untimely death earlier this year, had hoped to stage the match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork.
The 45,000-capacity Páirc Uí Chaoimh is the home of Cork GAA but the Association is rigidly sticking to Rule 42, which prohibits GAA stadiums from hosting non-GAA sports.
The match is now likely to take place at Turner’s Cross, home of Miller’s former club Cork City. It has a capacity of just 7,000.
Miller played Gaelic football in his youth and took part in matches at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and it had been hoped that the Association would consider allowing the match to go ahead at the Ballintemple stadium.
But in a statement issued late on Friday, the GAA said: “The GAA is prohibited in rule from hosting games other than those under the control of the Association in its stadia and grounds.
“The Cork County Committee and Central Council have no discretion in this matter,” read the statement.
“Only a change at Annual Congress can alter this situation. Congress takes place in February each year.
“The GAA has sought legal advice around funding received towards the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh and believes it is compliant with the terms and conditions laid down in September 2016.
“The Association re-affirms its offer to provide hospitality facilities at the venue free gratis to assist fundraising efforts around the Liam Miller Tribute Match and wish the event organisers every success in their endeavours.”
Cork Lord Mayor Mick Finn told the Irish Independent: “One pity is that we didn’t have the use of a bigger venue in the city.
“I know attempts were made to get Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but I have no doubt that the Cork public will row in behind this and it will be a fantastic event.
“Turner’s Cross will be packed to capacity, the tickets are going to fly out the door tomorrow.”
Commenting on the legal advice the GAA had received, barrister Tim O’Connor said in an interview with RTE Radio that one alternative would have been interpreting the game as a charity event rather than a field sport while other a number of former footballers also took aim at the Association.
Andy Reid, who won 29 caps for the Republic of Ireland, wrote on Twitter: “Scandalous the GAA wouldn’t allow the use of Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the Liam Miller memorial match, Liam represented ireland from u15 all the way up to senior level and gave everything, shocking!!!”
Paul McGrath, who represented Ireland in Euro 1988 as well as the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, added: “Isn’t it sad that the GAA didn’t allow the family of a Cork son Liam Miller to hold his memorial match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“Liam gave 110 per cent to his country from under age all the way up senior level.”
Leader of the opposition and Cork South Central Teachta Dála Micheál Martin wrote: “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.”
The match is due to take place on September 25.