GAA needs to up its Game

Posted by The Skibbereen Eagle | July 19, 2018 0

Organisers of the Liam Miller charity match have been  refused permission to host the game at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

A host of former Manchester United, Celtic, and Republic of Ireland stars are set to play the tribute match in aid of the family of the late Corkman at Turner’s Cross on Tuesday, September 25. The match will be followed by a black tie gala dinner at Cork City Hall, where the tribute was officially launched yesterday. Details of the event were revealed by Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane, Cork Lord Mayor Mick Finn, Cork City FC manager John Caulfield, and developer Michael O’Flynn, a family friend of the Millers and chairman of the organising committee. The former Celtic, Manchester United, Cork City and Ireland midfielder died of cancer earlier this year aged 36.

But organisers had sought permission to play the game at Páirc Uí Chaoimh which has a capacity of 45,000. Fans are expected to be left disappointed when tickets go on sale as the capacity of Turner’s Cross is just 7,000. “Turner’s Cross stadium will be packed to capacity, the tickets are going to fly out the door tomorrow,” said Cork Lord Mayor Mick Finn. Former Cork footballer Daniel Goulding says it’s disappointing that a tribute match for Liam Miller will not be held in Páric Uí Chaoimh. “It’s disappointing alright, in fairness,” 2010 All-Ireland winner Goulding told Balls at and Electric Ireland event on Thursday. Goulding is not simply a Cork man like Miller. Just as the 32-year-old calls the Éire Óg club in Ovens outside the city his home, so did Miller.

Goulding said: “It’s a great event to raise funds for the family. Not to be able to have it in as big a venue as possible in Cork is disappointing. The demand for it is going to be absolutely huge. The tickets are probably going to sell out in five minutes. In fairness, the county board said they tried to facilitate it but the rules from Croke Park just said no. It’s a soccer game, if that’s the issue… Look, really, it’s a charity event. I suppose that’s the sad thing. It’s a very important charity event as well.”

While I was never a great fan of the GAA when I was younger because of its backwoodsmen and narrow nationalism it has changed in its tone, gender mix and inclusivity. There is much to admire as it is a genuinely member controlled and owned community based organisation, has a strict amateur code and will not allow or facilitate gambling at any of its fixtures. It is also an all Ireland organisation which has never made any distinction on grounds of religion. Indeed its major trophy, The Sam Maguire Cup is named in honour of a Protestant Nationalist from Dunmanway, Co. Cork who captained London Hibernians, recruited his work colleague in the Post Office in London, Michael Collins to the IRB and ran the IRA’s intelligence operation in England during the War of Independence and the Treaty negotiations.

The same backward mindset which sacked Ireland’s First President Douglas Hyde (!!) as Patron in 1938 when as President he attended a soccer match allows #GAA to say NO to Liam Miller charity match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Tellingly the GAA’s actions at the time were strongly condemned by Eamon deValera among others. There was a great line from Joe Duffy on Liveline on RTE Radio today  =’ Ed Sheeran can play in Páirc Ui Chaoimh but not Roy Keane’.

The Lord Mayor of Cork, Mick Finn said “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, which is a pity, but I have no doubt that the Cork public will row in behind this and it will be a fantastic event. There is such a demand for this event that I have no doubt it will sell out within a couple of minutes. Attempts were made by Michael (O’Flynn), and myself and others to see if Páirc Uí Chaoimh would be available. But they have their own internal practices, the response was it wasn’t available on this occasion.I think it has to go before Congress, [to use] every pitch outside Croke Park. They have approval for Croke Park I think generally, and every other facility has to go before Congress which isn’t until next February, so it just wasn’t an option. They have offered their premium facilities free of charge, conscious of the fact that Liam played with Éire Óg, and captained his school to a Sciath na Scol final in ’93.”

Mr Finn also added that the Cork County Board were “receptive”, but their hands were tied.

The GAA’s controversial Rule 42, which prohibits GAA stadiums from hosting non-GAA sports, was modified in 2005 with Croke Park opened while Lansdowne Road was under reconstruction. in 2010 the GAA voted to keep Croke Park open when Lansdowne was finished but other GAA stadia are not permitted to host ‘foreign sports’.  There has been widespread anger on social media with the GAA’s rules coming in for criticism. 

This is a shocking decision by the GAA to not allow a memorial ( soccer) match for Liam Miller. I have met GAA President John Horan and Cork Chairperson Tracey Kennedy and doubt if either of them wanted this to happen? There is the also far from minor point that over €30 million of taxpayer funding has gone into this underused single use stadium so a nod to civic responsibility would not be out of place.

I thought GAA you were embracing Modern Ireland? It is time to up your game.

The Skibbereen Eagle

In 1898, to widespread bemusement, a small Provincial Newspaper in an equally small town in the South West corner of Ireland sonorously warned the Czar of Russia that it knew what he was up to and he should be careful how he proceeded for “The Skibbereen Eagle” was wise to his game and in future would be keeping its eye on him! It is doubtful that Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, even noticed the Eagle’s admonitions but as history soon proved he should have paid closer attention to the Eagle’s insightful opinions!

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