By Michael Moynihan
Cork sporting legend Dave Barry says it would be “a fantastic gesture” if the GAA were to open Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the Liam Miller tribute match.
There was a backlash this week when it emerged that the GAA would not allow the Cork stadium to be used for a charity fundraiser game in aid of Miller’s family. The Irish soccer international, who played for Celtic and Manchester United, died in February and the tribute match, featuring many of his former teammates, is now scheduled for September in Turner’s Cross.
“I was on the radio during the week and someone suggested using the Aviva, but that’s not the point,” said Barry yesterday.
“It’s a Cork event for a Cork person. Roy Keane flew into Cork from Russia to launch this, he’s a Corkman.
“Michael O’Flynn on the organising committee, another Corkman, the launch itself was held in Cork City Hall.
“So it’s a Cork event, but the goodwill that’s been shown for this is incredible, and not just in Cork or Ireland.
“People in Scotland and England, where Liam played, they want to come to pay tribute to him, and that should be in the place where he grew up.
In a distinguished sporting career Barry enjoyed huge success across Gaelic football and soccer, winning All-Ireland senior football medals with Cork and league titles with Cork City.
“I think it’d be a fantastic gesture from the GAA to open Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the game. At the end of the day it’s not a Champions League game or a qualifier for the Euros: It’s a charity event. You’re talking about raising funds for a family who’ve lost their breadwinner and who are in a dark place.
“It’d be a lovely gesture if those kids could walk out in a stadium in their Dad’s home place and be welcomed.
“I’m aware of the GAA’s rules and the need to go to Congress for permission for matches, and I know that all organisations need rules, obviously.
“But I think when this is clearly something that’s a fundraiser and not, as I say, a competitive match, then it should be accommodated.”
Barry also pointed to the support being offered by Miller’s former team-mates at Manchester United.
“They’ve all been hugely supportive of the event. I’d say a few of them want to probably come over and see where Roy Keane grew up.
“It’d be terrible if he was bringing the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes through the Jack Lynch Tunnel on the way to Mayfield and they saw the Páirc and said, ‘oh, is that where we’re playing the game?’ and to be told ‘no, there’s a smaller place in town.’
“Fair dues to the Munster Football Association, there’s no issue with using Turner’s Cross, but it’d be better surely to have a bigger venue and a bigger turnout.”
He points out that he’s not the only soccer player with a GAA background: “Roy Keane has strong ties to Mayfield GAA, Denis Irwin was an outstanding hurler with the Barrs. Liam himself played with Éire Óg and won a Sciath na Scoil competition in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh. I wouldn’t like this to become a soccer versus GAA issue because people in Cork are steeped in both games — in all games.
“The GAA has led the way in the past, opening Croke Park a few years ago for soccer and rugby, and I think they can do the same again in this case. To me, though, this isn’t so much a sports issue as a chance to be generous to people who are in a dark place, the kind of dark place that visits all families at some time or other.
“Having compassion for people who are having a tough time is something you’d expect no matter what the sport or the wider issues are. Irish people are always generous in a situation like that, and you’d love to see some of that generosity here as well.”