The eulogy has become such a part of our culture it’s often hard to distinguish truth from fable. It doesn’t matter a great deal I suppose; it’s important to speak well of those you are mourning and embellishment hardly does any great harm.
Liam Miller was a tremendous footballer. There are many who trained and played with him who have commented on his skill, his reading of the game and his composure on the ball.
As a non-expert I remember him destroying, single-handedly, Anderlecht, in a Champions League match; his outstanding performance in Lansdowne for Ireland against Croatia; displaying a Giles-like passing range in the famous white of Leeds United at Elland Road.
Those are ‘nice to have’ but, ultimately, unimportant football memories. I’ll always remember meeting him off the Cork train for the first time with my colleague and friend Eamon McLoughlin; accompanied by his mother, Bridie, the 18-year-old Liam was so shy he hardly looked us in the eye for the hour spent chatting over tea and toast.
So too, the late hours after midweek matches playing snooker in his home where we’d all try but fail to cheat our way to beating him; later how he was simply bursting with pride at Clare and himself becoming parents for the first time when Kory was born; all the fun and banter underpinned by the man’s innate modesty. Working closely with Liam over those years, those were the private insights of Liam that gave you his true measure.
It’s been interesting to see the same emphasis in much of the comment from those who played with him for club and country. Liam was an exceptional footballer. Liam achieved great things playing for Glasgow Celtic, Manchester United, Sunderland, Leeds, Hibernian and Cork City. Twenty one senior caps and a stellar underage career for Ireland; all done with his quiet ambition, understated modesty and constant courtesy. These are the characteristics all his ex-teammates have referenced in their tributes. They are the things about Liam that will make his loss so acute for Clare and their three young children, for his parents, siblings and close friends.
This is not to eulogise him beyond whom he was. There is not even a hint of embellishment in recognising him as a very good, understated and kind young man whose loss will be felt by all those fortunate enough to have known him well. I count myself privileged to have been one of them.