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Pressure on GAA to host Miller memorial match continues to rise

Public pressure continued to mount on the GAA yesterday with more public figures from the world of sport, politics, and beyond calling on the organisation to allow a tribute match to the late Liam Miller take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

The 36-year-old former Manchester United, Celtic, and Cork City player died following a battle with cancer earlier this year.

Tickets for a tribute match in aid of the Miller family and Marymount Hospice, which is due to be held in Turners Cross this September sold out in minutes last Friday — intensifying calls for the event to be moved to the larger 45,000-capacity Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

The GAA will today meet with the event organisers to discuss a possible change of venue, having originally stated its rules prohibited any such development.

Former Cork football manager Billy Morgan told Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1 that the controversy has been an embarrassment.

My own reaction was one of disgust,” Mr Morgan said. “Speaking to fellow GAA members over the weekend, their feelings were the same. We see no reason whatsoever why the game cannot go ahead at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“Ed Sheeran was there couple of weeks ago. If Ireland had got the Rugby World Cup it was going to go ahead down there. For the life of me, I can’t understand why it’s not allowed to go ahead.

“I used the word embarrassed this morning. Talking to GAA people over the weekend, they also expressed that opinion, that they felt embarrassed by it. It is an embarrassing situation that we do not allow our stadium to be used for a sporting hero of Cork.”

Speaking on the same programme, broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh said he believed from the start it should have gone ahead at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“This is not a match. It’s a fundraiser for a most worthy cause,” he said.

Páirc Uí Chaoimh is a wonderful venue. Why not show it to people who have never been there before? It would create goodwill. And above all it would boost the fundraising budget.

“I remember years ago there was a book, and in it there was a question and answer included: Who is my neighbour? And the answer given was, my neighbour is everybody, even those who differ from me in any way. It’s a spirit that should decide this. A spirit in the hearts of people,” he said.

The Bishop of Cork & Ross John Buckley issued a statement in which he said he was “delighted that talks would be held between the GAA and the organisers of the Testimonial Match for Liam Miller”. Bishop Buckley said that the Testimonial match was “an event worthy of support and many Cork people would like to attend”.

He noted that Liam had played Gaelic football as well as soccer and hoped that a way could be found to resolve the matter.

Speaking on The Sunday Game, Joe Brolly said he believes there is scope within the GAA rules to allow the match take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Rule 5.1 allows our property to be used so long as it doesn’t conflict with the objectives or aims of the association. And all we have to do is characterise this for what it is — it’s a charity event,” Mr Brolly said.

“Once you classify it as a charity event, we also have an agreement with central government about the funds, the €30m that was given for Páirc Uí Chaoimh and that includes use for charitable purposes.”

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy also became the latest Cabinet minister to speak on the issue, stating that he believes GAA rules around the use of its facilities need to be updated.

“I’m stepping out of my brief when I talk about an issue like this. I understand the sensitivities involved, I think the GAA do as well, but I think they’re going to be having conversations with the family and I think these kinds of rules need to be changed, I think they belong to a past we no longer recognise,” he told RTÉ’s Drivetime.