As the GAA/GPA Football All-Stars touch down in New York today (Wed), the Gaelic Players Association is preparing to deliver an important message to a new audience for the first time.
Ireland’s leading footballers, the 2012 and 2012 All-Stars sponsored by Opel, will play an exhibition game in Gaelic Park on Saturday night at 6.0pm where the last two All-Ireland winning managers, Donegal’s Jim McGuinness and Dublin’s Pat Gilroy, will pit their wits against each other.
The players will also visit a number of NY GAA clubs on Saturday morning for juvenile coaching sessions in what promises to be a very special day on the local calendar.
Coinciding with this year’s visit of the All-Stars, the GPA will also host its inaugural Ireland-US Gaelic Heritage Awards Dinner Gala in Times Square tomorrow night where they will honor US corporate champion of Ireland Don Keough.
The event, organized by dinner sponsor Declan Kelly, CEO of Teneo Holdings, will showcase the GPA’s work for county hurlers and footballers through its Player Development Program as well as the Association’s burgeoning role in Irish society.
As well as Mr Kelly and Mr Keough, speakers at the Gala include the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan T.D., who is traveling over especially for the event. Deenihan, a five-time All-Ireland medal winner with Kerry is of course himself a former All-Star. GAA President Liam O’Neill will also address the gathering along with Christopher Fox from the University Of Notre Dame.
GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell explained the importance of tomorrow’s event. “This is a very significant occasion for the GPA as we aim to develop a network of supporters here in the US.
“Thanks to the support of Declan (Kelly) and our US Advisory Board and the extraordinary generosity of Don Keough we have been afforded a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate what we do for our players and to promote our organization’s aims,” said Farrell.
The GPA, through the support of the GAA, has implemented a comprehensive Player Development Program to assist county players with their off-field careers, supporting them in areas such as education and career development. However, Farrell explains one of the broader aims of the players’ body.
“Our over-riding ambition is that by nurturing the players’ innate leadership qualities which they possess in abundance and harnessing their status as natural role models in society, we can help to develop a new cohort of leaders in Ireland; we believe this will be good for the Games, good for the players and, most importantly, good for the country,” he added.
“The GPA, representing 2,500 current players, is the largest players’ representative body in the world – this due to the unique status of our amateur indigenous sports. Ensuring that the Player Development Program can cope with growing demand from players is the GPA’s greatest challenge and is why we have established a support network here in the US.
“It is important to note that we are sourcing new supporters among the Irish American business community – people who, hitherto, may have had no direct involvement with Gaelic games but understand its cultural importance.
“We are acutely aware of the fundraising commitments of the GAA in New York and in the US in general and our work will in no way cut across local efforts. In fact we believe that what we are doing will have long-term benefits for the GAA as a whole in the US.
“The GPA would love to see high profile county games and exhibition games played regularly in the States. We believe passionately in the quality of our sports and our players and hope before long, television viewers here will get to see our games on a weekly basis.”
The touring All-Star party will be honored at a reception tonight by Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny.
Also travelling with the group is Hurler of the Year, nine-time All-Ireland medal winner and GPA ambassador Henry Shefflin who only last Sunday assisted his club Ballyhale Shamrocks in their Kilkenny county final victory.
Saturday’s game at Gaelic Park will be preceded by an exhibition between the NYPD and FDNY. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for seniors. For more information go to www.newyork.gaa.ie.