GAA Director General Tom Ryan has said the association felt "bullied" into hosting the Liam Miller Tribute Match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
On September 25th, a Manchester United XI faced an Ireland/Celtic XI at the home of Cork GAA for the benefit of Miller's family along with several other charities.
The game had originally been scheduled for Turner's Cross. Though the match's organising committee had initially made efforts to have it held at Páirc Uí Chaoimh but GAA rules stood in the way.
After the game was announced for Turner's Cross, a clamour began for it to be moved to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Writing in his 2018 annual report, Ryan said that his reservations regarding how the game came to be played at the Páirc Uí Chaoimh should be viewed in the light that the most important outcome from the event is that the Miller family benefited. "Everything else is secondary," wrote the Ard Stiúrthóir.
My problem with how events unfolded concerns not the playing of any particular match (or sport) in any GAA venue, but the blatant disregard that was shown for the Association’s governance. We try to conduct our affairs well. Much of the clamour that arose amounted to demands for us to just ignore our own standards, and indeed our decision makers. To ignore the rule, or find a loophole and host the game.
Ryan says that the association became increasingly aware that if they did not find a way for the game to be held at their ground, it would suffer further "unjustified" reputational damage.
"So that is what we did – we found a way around our own rules. That is something I am still very uncomfortable with. The mechanics involved identifying a legal route, establishing independently its validity, and convening at two days notice our voluntary Central Council from all around the country and overseas to a difficult meeting. I don’t think any of us were enthusiastic about the outcome we reached. The overwhelming sentiment being that we felt we had been bullied into a course of action that we might well have taken anyway if given the chance."
The match's organising committee in no way made matters difficult for the GAA, according to Ryan.
"Quite the opposite in fact. Events just seemed to take on a momentum of their own, with ever more influential people expressing ever more unhelpful and unsolicited views. The most disappointing aspect was that it should detract in any way from what was otherwise a very enjoyable GAA summer."
Ryan addressed the issue in his report for two reasons.
One) The notion that the GAA "should be under some moral, if not legal, compulsion to allow the use of our pitches for other sports because the Association, or the specific pitch, had received public funding."
"This is not factually correct and is not morally defensible. Any funding we receive is, and should continue to be, predicated solely on the intrinsic value of Gaelic Games. I am not aware of any other sporting organisation being assessed on the degree to which it promotes rival sports."
Two) GAA Congress will this weekend address the ambiguity in the association's property rules which allowed September's game to be played at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile