Monday 23 July 2018

'He was the bravest person I have ever known' - football stars among mourners at funeral of Liam Miller

Roy Keane (centre) and Martin O'Neill (right) arrive for the funeral of former Celtic and Manchester United footballer Liam Miller, at St. John the Baptist Church in Ovens, County Cork. Clare Keogh/PA Wire
Roy Keane (centre) and Martin O'Neill (right) arrive for the funeral of former Celtic and Manchester United footballer Liam Miller, at St. John the Baptist Church in Ovens, County Cork. Clare Keogh/PA Wire
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Former Ireland, Celtic and Manchester United star Liam Miller (36) was hailed as an inspiration to all and one of the bravest men ever produced.

The tribute came as football stars rubbed shoulders with neighbours and friends as hundreds paid their respects to the father of three at his Requiem Mass in his native Cork.

Mr Miller died after a brave battle against cancer last Friday - and his funeral Mass was staged just 24 hours before what would have been his 37th birthday.

His wife, Clare, and children, Kory, Leo and Belle led the mourners today alongside his parents, Billy and Bridie, and siblings, Sean, Robby, Martin and Suzanne at the Church of St John the Baptist in Ovens, Co Cork.

The mourners also included Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, former Ireland managers Brian Kerr and Steve Staunton, Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane, FAI chief executive John Delaney, former Manchester United players Denis Irwin and John O'Shea, Ireland and Celtic star Aidan McGeady, Cork City manager John Caulfield as well as virtually the entire Cork City team.

Also in attendance was Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin, developer Michael O'Flynn and the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley.

Commandants Brian Walsh and Caroline Burke represented President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Wreaths were presented from Sir Alex Ferguson and his wife, Cathy, as well as from Manchester United FC.

The Mass also featured a special prayer version of the Celtic and Liverpool anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.

Ovens Parish Priest Fr Liam Hickey told the packed church that words failed to convey the scale of the tragedy.

Mourners as the coffin of former Celtic and Manchester United footballer Liam Miller is carried following the funeral service at St. John the Baptist Church in Ovens, County Cork. Clare Keogh/PA Wire
Mourners as the coffin of former Celtic and Manchester United footballer Liam Miller is carried following the funeral service at St. John the Baptist Church in Ovens, County Cork. Clare Keogh/PA Wire

"Liam fought his illness with the same resilience with which he played," he said.

Fr Hickey said Liam Miller had packed so much into his short life and accomplished so many things that he could rightly have said: "Follow that."

"He lived every young man's dream."

"Liam used his talents to the full in such a short time. He gave so much joy to people and honoured the God who gave him those talents. He brought immense pride to his family and his home place."

"Today we mourn a loving and caring husband to Clare and a young father to three children he loved so much."

The Offertory Gifts reflected the loves of the young man's life - three jerseys for Ireland, Celtic and Manchester United as well as photos of his wife and children, his parents and siblings as well as the Eire Og team he captained as a youngster.

His brother in law, Dan Sheedy, said they were heartbroken by the cruel death of a man at such a young age.

"The loss of the best is the worst... it is overwhelming," he said.

Mr Sheedy said Liam Miller's true legacy is not that he was a successful footballer but rather that he was a devoted family man.

"I could live a dozen lives and not be half the man Liam Miller was."

He said Mr Miller was marked out by his bravery, his honour, his integrity and his humility.

"There was never a father like Liam - he gave every ounce of himself to his children."

Mr Sheedy said his brother in law fought his illness with "a ferocity" not for himself but for others.

"Liam wanted to survive for his family. He was the bravest person I have ever known."

He revealed that Liam's father referred to him as a youngster as "my little Stanley Matthews."

Mr Sheedy said Liam had dreamed of playing for Celtic, Manchester United and Ireland.

"And he did... Liam was that most rare people - he lived the dream."

Celtic official and former Scotland player, Willie McStay, supervised Liam's arrival in Glasgow as a talented schoolboy who made his debut in 2000.

"Nothing seemed to faze him - and to me he seemed like a Celtic player," he said in a special eulogy.

"Liam became a favourite of the Celtic support...and he fulfilled his boyfriend dream of playing for the two clubs he loved as a boy (Celtic and Manchester United)."

"But I will always remember that wee boy who never gave the ball away and who could run all day."

"It was a joy to work with him and to know him."

"Liam - you will Never Walk Alone," Mr McStay said as he vowed that the Millers will always remain part of the Celtic family.

As well as playing for Celtic, Manchester United and Ireland, Mr Miller also played for Sunderland, Leeds, QPR, Hibernian, Cork City as well as clubs in Australia and the US.

He was also a key part of the Brian Kerr Ireland U-16 side that won the European Championships.

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