A host of Gaelic Games legends along with the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy trophies will arrive in New York tomorrow for the fourth Gaelic Players Association Ireland-U.S. Gaelic Heritage Awards Gala which takes place Thursday (Oct 8).

Among the travelling party are All-Ireland winners Conor Fogarty (Kilkenny) and Dublin veteran Alan Brogan. Donegal star Michael Murphy, Tipp hurler Noel McGrath, Rosommon’s Neil Collins, former Kildare captain Dermot Earley, Mayo legend Kevin O’Neill and are also among the contingent as the GPA gears up for the annual event at the Plaza Hotel.

This year’s Gala will honour Michael Madden, Chairman of Teneo Capital and Restructuring, Irial Finan, Executive Vice President & President, Bottling Investments at the Coca-Cola Company while a special Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Wexford hurling hero from the 1950s Art Foley who has lived in New York for over 50 years.

Michael Madden has been actively involved in the Financial Services business for over twenty-five years. In addition to his role with Teneo, he is also the Managing Partner and founder of Ronoc an investment business focused on financial services which he set up in July 2007.

Michael is also patron of the Jim Madden GPA Leadership Program which was initiated this year for male and female county players, the first course of its kind in Ireland.

Irial Finan heads up a multi-billion dollar bottling business owned by the Coca-Cola Company. He has responsibility for operations with more than $20 billion in revenues and more than 100,000 employees.

The Gala Night will also feature the launch of the GPA’s Education Patron Program – ‘Students Redefined’ – which is being initiated to meet the challenges highlighted in a GPA Report published earlier this year.

The study showed that student county players can be at a serious disadvantage due to their commitment to playing at the top level. Results showed that 14% had to repeat an academic year, 55% were experiencing financial difficulty, 40% had to repeat exams and 55% would like to devote more time to studies.

Speaking about the launch and the Gala night Dessie Farrell commented: “We are very fortunate to have people like Mike Madden and Irial Finan supporting the players’ body and advocating for the GPA’s work in the US and we are looking forward to paying tribute to them on Thursday.

“It is also very special that we have Art Foley with us at the Plaza. Art is an iconic figure in Irish sport, the 1956 All-Ireland final has legendary status and Art played his part in that pulling off his famous save from Christy Ring at a crucial point in the game.

“The backdrop to the Gala is the launch of the GPA Education Patron Program to help broaden our educational support for county hurlers and footballers.”

The Program will provide education and training grants for students, personal development coaching, health and wellbeing services and empowerment workshops.

Master of Ceremonies for the night will be RTÉ presenter Mary Morrissey and a special questions and answer session with the players will take place before the Gala dinner.