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GPA volunteers helping out at the Rockaway Point Fire Department earlier this year.

The Gaelic Players Association make a big difference in promoting the game to a wider American audience

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GPA volunteers helping out at the Rockaway Point Fire Department earlier this year.

The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) has been working in the U.S. since 2011 when, under the direction of chief executive Dessie Farrell and chairman Donal Og Cusack, it set up an Advisory Board in New York to help develop a network of supporters for the work of the group, and to promote Gaelic games to a wider American audience.

The GPA supports over 2,000 elite amateur Gaelic footballers and hurlers in Ireland by providing a comprehensive development program for players.

The objective of the development program which includes educational, career, life-skills and health and well-being supports, is to make a meaningful difference to the off-field careers of county players, encourage their long-term personal development and ensure that they reach their potential on and off the field.

Identifying and supporting the innate leadership qualities and transferable skills players possess will help the GPA to produce a new cohort of leaders, something the association believes will be good for Gaelic games and good for Ireland.

In 2012, with the support of Declan Kelly and Teneo Holdings and the American Ireland Fund, the GPA held its inaugural fundraising event in New York, the Irish-U.S. Gaelic Heritage Awards, where it honored the former president of Coca-Cola Don Keough, acknowledging his outstanding contribution to the economic development of Ireland.

The gala was attended by the all-star Gaelic footballers of 2012 and 2011, and while in New York a group of players was invited out to the Irish American community of Breezy Point in the Rockaways to help lift morale following the devastation inflicted on the area by Hurricane Sandy.

Having witnessed the destruction first-hand, the GPA vowed to return to offer meaningful support to the community which it duly did the following January when, with the support of Aer Lingus, a work party of current and former players and tradesmen went back to Breezy Point to help with the reconstruction effort and raise funds for the local sports program.

The arrival of Irish sports stars to Breezy Point really struck a chord with the American public who witnessed it on NBC News reports.  The charitable act of an Irish group fundraising in the U.S. and giving back to the community was acknowledged by President Obama during his St. Patrick’s Day address in the White House.

On June 8 the GPA returns to Breezy Point, where a unique Gaelic sports team-bonding day overseen by former stars of Gaelic football will once again help raise funds for the on-going Breezy Point disaster relief effort.

As part of its strategic plans to promote Gaelic games in the U.S., the GPA is bringing an exhibition hurling game to the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Indiana on October 19 to coincide with the big Fighting Irish vs. USC college football clash.

With an all-star line-up of hurlers, the GPA has devised a short-form of the game so that it can be facilitated on the university’s Arlotta Stadium lacrosse grounds.  The match will take place during the build-up to the football game that evening.

Plans are also advanced to bring the inter-provincial Gaelic football final to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on March 1, 2014 to coincide with the large North Texas Irish Festival.

For more information, visit www.gaelicplayers.com.

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