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Friday 20 July 2018

'Bravest and best' Liam hailed an inspiration as family and football stars bid final farewell

The coffin of Liam Miller is carried following the funeral service at St John the Baptist Church in Ovens, Co Cork
The coffin of Liam Miller is carried following the funeral service at St John the Baptist Church in Ovens, Co Cork

Ireland, Celtic and Manchester United star Liam Miller was hailed as an inspiration and one of the bravest men ever at his funeral.

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

Mr Miller died after a courageous battle against cancer last Friday - and his funeral was held just 24 hours before he would have turned 37.

Wreaths

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

Also there to pay their respects were Ireland manager and ex-Celtic boss 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 former Celtic star Aidan McGeady, Celtic coach Shaun Maloney, Cork City manager John Caulfield and virtually the entire Cork City team.

Other public figures attending included Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, developer Michael O'Flynn and the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley.

President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were represented by their aides de camp.

Wreaths were presented from former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and his wife, Cathy, as well as the Old Trafford club.

Celtic tributes were led by ex-player and coach Willie McStay. 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.

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

He added that Mr 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," Fr Hickey said. "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."

The offertory gifts reflected the loves of his life - three jerseys from Ireland, Celtic and Manchester United, photos of his wife and children, his parents and siblings and the Eire Og team he captained as a youngster.

His brother-in-law, Dan Sheedy, said: "The loss of the best is the worst. It is overwhelming." He added that Mr Miller's true legacy is not as a successful footballer but rather a devoted family man.

"I could live a dozen lives and not be half the man Liam Miller was," he said. "There was never a father like Liam. He gave every ounce of himself to his children."

He said Mr Miller fought his illness with "a ferocity" allied to courage and humility.

"Liam wanted to survive for his family. He was the bravest person I have ever known," said Mr Sheedy. He also revealed that Liam's father referred to him as a youngster as "my little Stanley Matthews".

In a eulogy, Mr McStay, who supervised Liam's arrival in Glasgow as a talented schoolboy, said: "Nothing seemed to faze him.

"Liam became a favourite of the Celtic support, 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 added as he vowed the Millers will always remain part of the Celtic footballing family.

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