The Director General of the GAA says he was not opposed to hosting the Liam Miller tribute match in Pairc Uí Chaoimh, but refuses to say who he believes 'bullied' the association into providing the venue.
Tom Ryan said he is glad the match between Manchester United, Ireland, and Celtic players went ahead at the Leeside venue, but said the public pressure on the GAA threatened to scupper chances the game would take place at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
“For me personally, and I think for the association, it was never about playing a match or playing a soccer match in a GAA ground, it was about the process of it, and the fact that we have shown in the past we're able to do those things, we have a way to go about it. It just came upon us so quickly and so suddenly that we had very little room to manoeuvre, and the danger with those things sometimes is if you feel like you're being manoeuvred into a particular course of action, there's that risk people will dig in their heels and just say, 'no, we're not going to do that',” he said.
“Whatever we came up with had to first of all pass muster with regard to our own laws because there's nobody able to challenge things like a GAA person so whatever we come up with, somebody could have actually challenged us on it,” he told the Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM.
Mr Ryan was speaking in following the publication of his annual report, in which he said the GAA felt “bullied into a course of action that we might well have taken anyway if given the chance”.
He refused to be drawn on who bullied the GAA when asked by host PJ Coogan: “When you look back and reflect on the events of last summer, it's frustrating because I can't really, in all honesty, ascribe that to any one person group or sectional interest. It just seemed to take on a momentum all of its own as a cause. And you know, it was a very difficult time for lots of people, not least the Miller family, I'm sure. But first of all, I should have prefaced my remarks by saying we're really glad that it happened and that we were able to help that cause but there's no question about it was difficult.
“Rather than wanting to rake over old coals again, the reason that it's topical for us here at the moment is we've got to go back to our Congress in a month's time, GAA wise, and we've got to kind of ratify or reaffirm the route that we took to actually validate holding the game, so for that reason I included and I referred to it in my report,” he said.
However, he said the bullying remark definitely did not refer to the match organisers: “Over the course of the week, and a week is all it took, I met with the organisers once or twice and they were fine people and what they were attempting to do was really, really commendable for a friend of theirs. We put a couple of other potential courses to them, but it became very clear, this was a Cork event for a Cork person and it needed to be held in Cork. So with that in mind we were faced GAA wise with just finding a route to make the thing happen in the interest of the Association but it wasn't as simple, all these things are kind of nuanced and it was never as simple as just going to make it happen."