'Liam was that most rare of things,' mourners remember former Ireland footballer at his funeral

Liam Miller has been remembered as a family man above all else.

Leo (centre) and Kory (centre, left) Miller, sons of former Celtic and Manchester United footballer Liam Miller, look on as their father's coffin is lead out following the funeral service today. Pic: PA.

The former Celtic and Manchester United player died on Friday at the age of 36 after suffering from cancer.

Among deeply moving tributes at his funeral mass in Co. Cork, including that he achieved the rarest feat of living his dreams, one message that stood out was that he was a sportsman with decency, humour, honesty, integrity and humility.

Hundreds of mourners packed into the small St John the Baptist Church in the village of Ovens, near Ballincollig, with leading names from Irish football paying respects.

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane were joined by former internationals John O'Shea, Denis Irwin, Kevin Kilbane and Kevin Doyle, as well as past managers Brian Kerr and Steve Staunton.

After the rousing words of football anthem You'll Never Walk Alone were read out to the congregation, Miller's brother-in-law Dan Sheedy gave a hugely emotional eulogy.

"To those who knew Liam best, Liam's legacy won't be about anything he achieved on a football pitch, though, on that, he achieved what was to most of us an impossible fantasy" he said.

"Liam was that most rare of things - he lived his dreams.

"He dreamed of playing for (his father) Billy's beloved Celtic. And he did. He dreamed of playing for Man United. And he did. And he dreamed of playing for Ireland. And he did.

"He achieved these dreams with a combination of his skill, sublime as it was , his humble personality and a fierce determination we have all seen resurface these last few of months.

"Football is not how we are going to remember Liam."

Mourners heard how Miller was known by Billy, a Scot from Motherwell and a passionate Celtic fan, as "my little Stanley Matthews".

He was also said to be entranced, besotted and utterly in love with his wife Claire and that he gave every fibre of his being to his children's happiness.

"There was never a father like Liam," Mr Sheedy told the mourners.

Among the gifts brought to the altar during the mass were football jerseys, rosary beads and photos of his family, his First Holy Communion and one of him with team-mates.

The service was told how Miller's bravery was never more apparent than when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Mr Sheedy added: "Liam attacked his condition with a ferocity and a determination to survive it that is impossible to comprehend unless you saw it," he said.

"Liam was different. His motivation to survive wasn't for him. Liam's motivation, as it has always been, was for others and specifically for his family. Liam wanted to survive for his family. They are all that mattered to him."

Mr Sheedy urged mourners to remember Miller for his life off the pitch, rather than on it.

"Liam Miller a decent man," he said.

"Liam Miller an honest man. Liam Miller a humble man. Liam Miller a gas man. Liam Miller a sportsman.

"But I'd like to think by now you'd have figured out the true way to remember Liam Miller - Liam Miller was a family man.

"The loss of the best is the worst."

Miller won 21 caps for the Republic of Ireland and won a European Championship for his country at under-16 level.

He played for Celtic from aged 16. He also represented Manchester United, Leeds and Sunderland before enjoying spells in Australia, the United States and with Cork City.

He is survived by his wife Clare and his three children Kory, Leo and Belle.

Miller was buried in the cemetery adjoining the St John the Baptist Church.

KEYWORDS: soccer, liam miller

 

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