John O'Shea on the Liam Miller match: 'It's great to see the people of Ireland rallying around'

Posted by On 10:28 AM

John O'Shea on the Liam Miller match: 'It's great to see the people of Ireland rallying around'

Getting so many former Man Utd greats to take on a Glasgow Celtic/Republic of Ireland selection in Pairc Ui Chaoimh promises to be an amazing event and fitting tribute to the late Liam Miller, according to his close friend and former Man Utd and Ireland player, John O’Shea.

O’Shea, who was instrumental in introducing the organiser of the Liam Miller Benefit Match, Cork developer, Michael O’Flynn to Sir Alex Ferguson, believes that the Irish sporting public and in particular, the Cork sporting public will come out and support the game for what is a worthy cause.

“I’ve played in one or two such games before but they don’t happen too often and when you s ee some of the Man Utd names that are coming over for it, it really shows the regard and respect that they had for Liam from his time with the club,” says O’Shea.

Playing for Ireland was like playing for a club team - we always had that close bond in the Irish set- up and Liam was a huge part of that

“I suppose when you play with a club and share a dressing room with fellows and someone like Roy (Keane) rings up and asks you to turn out for a tribute game like this, then that bond that you have as former teammates comes to the fore and the football community shows its decency.”

Waterford born O’Shea (37) was just two months younger than Cork native, Liam Miller and they first met in the Republic of Ireland U-16 set up when, coached by Brian Ker r, they won the European Championship in Scotland, forging ties and friendships that were to last a life time.

“We beat Italy that time in Scotland and we became good friends - Jim Goodwin from Tramore was after heading for Celtic, Liam was obviously heading to Celtic and I was very close to going to Celtic myself only Man Utd came in for me at the last minute and I headed for Manchester.

“But we remained friends through the Irish set up - Liam was a huge Celtic and Man Utd fan and I remember he used to be asking questions all the time about such and such, - what was Scholes like, what was Giggs like, what’s Denis (Irwin) like?

“And then I remember one day in 2004, I was sitting in the canteen at the training ground and Sir Alex Ferguson came over to me and said ‘Your pal is on the way down’ and it was great to hear that Liam was coming down from Celtic because he had obviously caught the eye.”

Highly talented

O’Shea believes Miller was a highly talented footballer who was well able to hold his own in any company but he was competing for a midfield berth with a number of hugely talented Man Utd players like Keane, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs and went on loan to Leeds to get more game time.

Liam Miller playing for Ireland against Columbia during a friendly match in London in 2008/. File photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty
Liam Miller playing for Ireland against Columbia during a friendly match in London in 2008/. File photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty

They continued to meet regularly as part of the Republic of Ireland set up as they both graduated to the senior ranks and O’Shea recalled how well regarded the Ovens-born player was with his teammates when lining out with Boys in Green.

“Playing for Ireland was like playing for a club team - we always had that close bond in the Irish s et- up and Liam was a huge part of that - we were all proud to wear the jersey but going on away trips with Liam were always enjoyable, he would always cheer you up, laughing and joking.”

Miller’s death at the age of just 36 from oesophageal cancer last February came as a huge shock to O’Shea which is why the former Republic of Ireland skipper, now with Reading in the Championship, is only too happy to line out at Pairc Ui Chaoimh for the Liam Miller Benefit Match on September 25th.

The benefit match will raise money for Mr Miller’s widow Clare and three children. The game was initially due to be held at the 7,300-capacity Turner’s Cross in Cork, with tickets selling out within minutes of going on sale in July.

The GAA was heavily criticised, especially on social media, over its initial refusal to allow the match to go ahead at the higher-capacity Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The organisation said it was prohibited under its rules from hosting games other than those under its control in its stadiums and grounds and this could only be changed by GAA Congress in February. But the match will go ahead there after the organisation performed a U-turn on the matter.

Miller was capped 21 times by the Republic of Ireland and played professionally for Celtic; Manchester United; Leeds United; Sunderland; Queen’s Park Rangers and Hibernian, as well as in Australia, before returning to Leeside to play with Cork City. He died at Marymount Hospice in Cork city on February 9th. He is survived by his wife Clare, his children Kory, Leo and Belle, his parents Billy and Bridie and his extended family.

John O’Shea and former Ireland manager Steve Staunton at the funeral mass in Ovens, Co Cork of the late Liam Miller in February. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
John O’Shea and former Ireland manager Steve Staunton at the funeral mass in Ovens, Co Cork of the late Liam Miller in February. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

“Liam’s passing is incredibly sad - we had a 20th anniversary reunion of our success in Scotland at U-16 earlier this year and Liam was too ill to make it - to think you are losing someone from that squad and that team at that age is just incredibly sad,” says O’Shea.

“And then you think of Liam’s wife, Clare and the kids and it’s just so so sad for them to lose him so young- but then, it’s great to see the people of Ireland and particularly the people of Cork rallying around and showing their support for them by organising this tribute to him.”

Squaring up

O’Shea laughs when he is asked how he feels about facing a team managed by his former boss, Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill and squaring up to his former Irish teammate, Robbie Keane but he is serious when he promises fans coming to Pairc Ui Chaoimh an entertaining game.

“Hopefully I will be able to line out, fingers crossed. I’m not sure for how long but I will definitely be looking to play a good part in the match - that’s the least I can do for Liam but it will be great as well to catch up with old friends and former teammates,” he says.

“And there will be some outstanding players lining out - Roy, Denis, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Robbie, Damian Duff and as usual, the competitive nature of the players will take over so I’m sure there will be plenty of entertainment and, shall we say, physicality, for the fans to enjoy.

“I explained to some of the lads there had been a change of venue and it was now in Pairc UI Chaoimh rather than Tuners Cross which means more people will be a ble to attend it so there will be more money raised for Liam’s family and Marymount Hospice so they were happy to hear that.

“I think it’s going to be an amazing event especially for the younger generation whose parents can explain to them what these players achieved - for so many of these players to line out is a fitting tribute to Liam and shows the respect that he was held in by the football community.”

Tickets for the Liam Miller Tribute Match at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on September 25th go on sale on Monday (August 13th) at tickets.ie with prices ranging from concessionary terrace tickets at €10 to premium stand tickets at €90.

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