In September 2015 Cork City FC faced Derry City in a cup replay at Turners Cross. At stake was a place in the FAI Cup Quarter Finals, a mouth-watering prize for the Rebel Army. After a boom-to-bust period, we finally felt we were back in the big time. After pushing for the title until the last game of the season the year previous, the grey skies could not hurt my optimism as I turned through the turnstiles for what is easily the hundredth time or more. Here, inside the terraces of the Cross, nothing can do harm. Here is ninety minutes. Friends. Football. The result doesn’t matter; you’re here and all that matters is what’s in front of you.
I was a Fresher at the time. In my second week of college, I was slowly starting to crack the dynamics of the college. What to wear and what to say, but that day I pulled on my City jersey and was proud. Cork City FC. Back in the big time.
City went on to win the game three – nil. Out of all the match stats and details, what stands out is a moment. A simple turn of the ball and pass, something so threaded and neat it was made effortless, but met with a look of awe and panic in the opposing fans. What happened? Liam Miller, of Manchester United and Celtic fame, cut through the Derry line and tee’d up Ross Gaynor, who volleyed it into the top corner, sending the Shed End into true euphoria.
I remember the moment – the second – and the touch. My breath appearing in front of me in the cold and my clothes damp, but the conditions became obsolete as we all stood in awe of Miller’s first touch, his turn, his movement to outwit the Derry defence, and, finally, the killer pass for Gaynor to send us to that euphoria.
What was there, in that moment, was not just class but genius. In today’s footballing climate it can be easy to look passed players like Liam Miller. He may not have cemented the Manchester United midfield like Keane or Giggs, or made his name with the Bhoys of Sevilla at Celtic, but Liam was consistent in his own little path, driving and pushing teams, linking up play and controlling games. That was his job whenever at Champions League ties at Old Trafford or at a Munster Senior Cup tie at the Market Fields. Liam was tried and tested, and someone for the generations of Irish football fans.
He was a player whose game reflected a man so humble and kept. Best summarised by his former manager John Caulfield who described him by saying:
“He got to the highest level, winning international caps and playing for some big clubs. He was so modest, nothing ever went to his head. He came in every day and trained; a lovely person with a great attitude, a down to earth, humble guy.”
Pat Lyons, Chairman of Cork City FC and FORAS, described him: “I spoke to him a few times on a one-to-one basis and always found him to be a gentlemen; a sincere, nice and honest person, a guy you would like to call a friend. He trained every day, there was no ego about him; he just turned up, did his job, played the best he could and that was it. He was one of our own, a good guy.”
It is said that we are left behind by our memories. For some, Liam was the former Man United man who you would see in the Mardyke, for others he was a friend and teammate, and for myself he was a man who inspired awe. A gaunt figure of fear and friendliness, who made our dreams real, and yet was as humble as any man.
For the many, there is a story, a memory of Liam Miller. For me, it is a rainy night against Derry.
RIP Liam Miller.
CTID and Beyond.