THE tribute match for the late Ireland and Manchester United star, Liam Miller (36), raised an astonishing €1.5 million for the footballer’s young family and a range of Irish charities.
The revelation came as the match organisers confirmed the net €1.5 million fundraising total from the September 25 game and the list of charities to now benefit from it.
The sell-out match between a Manchester United XI and an Ireland/Celtic XI became the first soccer match ever staged at the GAA’s Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
More than 45,000 fans from all over Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales attended the match which was staged at the €70 million refurbished Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork.
It was supplemented by a sell-out gala dinner attended by many of the soccer stars who participated in the tribute match.
It was confirmed that €1 million will now be placed in a special trust for Mr Miller’s family and his three young children.
A further €250,000 will be donated to Marymount Hospice where Mr Miller received care and €100,000 will be given to the Jack O’Driscoll Fund, an appeal in aid of a young man left paralysed after a fall during Storm Emma earlier this year.
Mr O’Driscoll was an avid GAA player.
There will be €35,000 donated to the Mercy University Hospital Foundation, €35,000 to the Oesophageal Cancer Fund and €20,000 each to Enable Ireland, Cork Simon, Cork Penny Dinners and Down Syndrome Cork.
Liam Miller’s wife, Clare, and the Miller family admitted there were “no words” to describe the sadness and heartbreak they have endured since the death last February of the Cork midfielder aged just 36.
But she said her family were “overwhelmed” by the incredible reaction to the tribute match staged for the father of three who lost a brave battle with cancer.
“We feel truly blessed and grateful,” the family said.
“We would like to thank everyone involved from the bottom of our hearts.”
“The love and support you have shown will always be remembered and treasured by us.”
Mrs Miller said her children, Kory, Leo and Belle, will remember the special tribute event for the rest of their lives.
Former Ireland and Manchester United star, Roy Keane, said the amount raised was remarkable.
“Everyone involved in the game is delighted with the amount raised which will benefit so many people,” he said.
“The response from the public towards the Miller family is truly amazing.”
Developer Michael O’Flynn, who spearheaded the tribute match, said its success reflected hugely on Cork and Ireland as well as the unifying element of sport.
“It really is an extraordinary result,” he said.
“I always felt this was going to be a landmark event for Cork.”
“This event showed the true spirit of Cork people.”
Mr O’Flynn said he wished the number of benefitting charities could have been greater but he said significant sums will now be given to very deserving causes.
The GAA provided Pairc Ui Chaoimh for the event rent-free – and all the players who participated waived their appearance fees.
The cost of staging the match was €180,000 which covered transport, security, logistics, utilities and insurance.
“The gross to net was very satisfactory,” Mr O’Flynn said.
Lord Mayor Councillor Mick Finn paid a special tribute to Croke Park and Cork Co Board for allowing Pairc Ui Chaoimh to be used – a major factor in the success of the fundraising effort.
“This event showed the harmonising nature of sport. It also reflected well on Cork and Ireland,” he said.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager who signed Liam Miller for the Red Devils, sent a special personal tribute for inclusion in the match day programme.
The Scot was unable to attend due to his ongoing recovery from brain surgery.
It prevented a reunion with his former captain, Roy Keane, who managed the Manchester United legends.
“Liam Miller’s legacy as a human being was that he was totally liked by everyone for his quiet, endearing nature,” Sir Alex said.
Two players who fought successful battles with cancer, Celtic and Arsenal star John Hartson, and Celtic and Aston Villa star, Stylian Petrov, attended to pay their own special tributes.
“I managed to speak to him (Liam) about two to three weeks before he passed,” John Hartson said.
“The I got the call he had passed. Cancer doesn’t discriminate – anyone can get it anytime. It is very, very unfortunate that it took such a young man, such a great guy and with such a young family.”
Stylian Petrov said: “We are here because he was a friend. We pay our respects to Liam and try to support his family.”
“Liam wasn’t just good as a player – he was (good) as a human being as well.”
The bulk of Manchester United’s famous ‘Class of ’92’ attended the tribute game including Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Denis Irwin, Andy Cole and Nicky Butt.
Roy Keane managed the Manchester United legends while Martin O’Neill managed the Ireland/Celtic legends.
Dr Marie Murphy of Marymount Hospice said Liam Miller was a man marked out by courage and character.
“It takes not only talent but great courage to chase your dreams,” she said.
“Liam Miller achieved great things in representing his club and country.”
“Those who achieve such greatness are regarded as heroes by their supporters. We celebrate those heroes as we honour Liam,” she said.
But Dr Murphy said it takes even greater courage and character to face serious illness – and she paid tribute to Liam Miller’s “gentle courage and loving dedication to this family” throughout his battle against his illness.
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