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Gary Neville hits out at the GAA's handling of Liam Miller tribute match venue

‘These associations of these national sports, they’re a disaster all over the world,’ the former Manchester United defender said.

Gary Neville (file pic).
Gary Neville (file pic).
Image: Steven Paston

MANCHESTER UNITED LEGEND Gary Neville has described the controversy surrounding the Liam Miller tribute match as “an absolute nonsense”.

The GAA initially rejected calls for the game to be played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh — a venue traditionally reserved for the association’s matches only – before belatedly agreeing to the star-studded soccer fixture being held there.

Speaking in Dublin, Neville admitted he had no knowledge of the furore surrounding the game until learning about it earlier today, nonetheless it did not stop him from being critical of the organisation’s handling of the event.

“Until somebody asked me about it about two hours ago, I had no idea about the fiasco,” Neville said. “I don’t know the politics, I’m in a different country, in a different city. What I would say is, from afar, for people to even be debating about where the game is being played is an absolute nonsense.

“The reality of it is, how people can even think about creating a negative story around where the game is: who cares where the game is played? If the game is played in this room, if the game is played on the beach, or the game is played on a boat at sea, or at a football stadium, a rugby stadium, a cricket stadium, or on the pavement or the street or a bar, who cares? The essence of the game is the most important thing

“I was over at the World Cup, and me and Ryan [Giggs] were asked by Roy [Keane] to come and play the game, and we didn’t need to give it a moment’s thought. It’s absolutely terrible what has happened to Liam. I can’t imagine the pain and devastation that his family are feeling. He was a good man, a good player and for us it’s important that we absolutely support this game and come over and do the very best that we can.

To be asked by Roy was an honour, because we obviously hold him in the highest regard. Obviously, we’ve the greatest respect for him. So, when he asked, we said yes straight away, we were desperate to come over. I’m not sure if we’re very good at playing anymore, that’s the problem that we’ve got, so don’t expect too much, but we’ll do our best and make sure we give our all and make it as good and attractive a fixture and a day out as possible and do Liam justice.

“These associations of these national sports, they’re a disaster all over the world, it’s not just in Ireland by the way. It’s a nonsense, the whole thing’s a nonsense. The reality of it is, the door should be open to anywhere to host this fixture.”

Cadbury Premier League Republic of Ireland Year-Two Sponsorship Launch Gary Neville pictured in Dublin today with the Premier League trophy. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Meanwhile, Neville’s former Man United team-mate Roy Keane spoke earlier today about the size of the pitch for the game in question and the problems it might create for some ageing ex-pros.

The Sky Sports pundit added: “The pitch (for the testimonial) is the least of my problems. I can just blame the pitch on my touch. That’s the least of my worries, it’ll be the oxygen tank that I require after about 20 minutes. I’m actually working as hard as I can to get fit for it, but no I’m not worried about the pitch, I’m more worried about how to navigate the 90 minutes.

“To be fair, I’m not even worried about doing the occasion justice. You want to put on a good show and make people enjoy it and do the occasion proud. Sometimes these games can drag on a bit, but I hope it can be a really good occasion and I’m sure it will be because all the ingredients are there.

“When I saw the line-ups that Roy has put together, it’s probably the best collection of ex-Manchester United players that I’ve ever seen come for one of these matches.

“Sometimes, in these ambassadorial type games, you don’t see everybody turn up. But it goes to show I think the respect that everyone has for Roy, as well as the respect everyone has for and the understanding of how important the situation is — that the players that played with him make sure that we do the right thing and do a good job and do him justice, because it’s a real tragedy.”

Gary Neville was in Dublin today to officially launch the second year of Cadbury’s partnership with the Premier League as Official Snack Partner.

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Paul Fennessy

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