MORE than three decades after last appearing at Páirc Uí Chaoimh for a St Finbarr’s underage side, Denis Irwin claimed a little bit of history as he scored the first soccer goal there.
And, assuming that he doesn’t line out for Manchester United again, yesterday’s game brought things full circle.
“My first game for Manchester United was at Musgrave Park back in probably July 1990 [against Cork City], so it's taken me a while to get here,” he said.
“It was a good occasion, a good game and a great crowd turned out. So many great ex-players gave their time up for a very good cause. Hopefully it's been a good day and everybody's enjoyed it.”
Obviously, Irwin knew how special it was to take the Páirc turf, and he revealed that his team-mates were cognisant of that too.
“They knew,” he said, “they all followed what's happening closely. I think they were quite shocked by the size of the pitch. Even I was quite shocked. But it was good and I think the crowd enjoyed it, which was the main thing.”
Gary Neville concurred regarding the pitch.
“It was a huge pitch!” he said.
“It was difficult playing football a few years ago when I was nearly retired, but that’s not what today was about.
“I’d have loved for it to have been a bit quicker, for everybody, but today was about paying tribute to Liam Miller.
“What it showed was that he was so popular in his home city and obviously with all of his team-mates.
“We put on the best show we possibly could on what was a very big pitch.”
And the significance of playing at Cork GAA headquarters?
“I was aware of it,” he said.
“I came over to Ireland a couple of months ago, before the start of the Premier League season, and I was aware of it.
“The stadium was fantastic and it was right that there was as big a crowd here as possible, to celebrate Liam’s life. For me, that’s what it was all about today.”
That was the overriding refrain from all of the players who took part, with remembering Liam Miller to the forefront of all of their minds.
“He was just someone who was very quiet in the dressing room, but very respectful,” Neville said.
“He worked hard always, applied himself well, he was popular with his team-mates and you’ve seen that today.
“Over the last seven or eight years, I’ve seen a few of these types of sort of testimonials, but I’ve never seen such a good turnout of players come and that shows you what they all think of Liam.”