Legends of Gaelic games past and present will be in the New York Athletic Club on November 14 for the second annual GPA Ireland-US Gaelic Heritage Awards Gala Event.

The work of the GPA, particularly in the area of counseling for players and the promotion of mental health among its members and in wider society, has been in the spotlight this week following the tragic death of young Galway hurler Niall Donohue.

The Players Association set up a nationwide Counseling Service and Confidential Helpline for players as part of its Development Program in 2010 and to date nearly 120 county players have engaged with the service. That process can range from simple conversation up to support for full-time residential treatment. The service is also extended to GAA clubs in the wake of tragic bereavements.

However, the loss of Niall Donohue last week has focused the efforts of the players’ organization and the wider GAA to redouble their efforts to tackle the issue of mental health and suicide in Ireland.

Among the visiting party headed by GPA Chief Executive and former Dublin star Dessie Farrell and GPA Chairman Dónal Óg Cusack will be legendary players from the past Kevin O’Neill of Mayo, Dublin football icons Brian Mullins and Tony Hanahoe, former Cork All-Ireland winning player and manager Donal O’Grady and former Dublin player and All-Ireland winning manager Pat Gilroy.

Two-time All-Ireland medalist and All-Star Paul Flynn will be on hand at the event to parade the coveted Sam Maguire trophy, which he collected for the second time in three years following Dublin’s success this year.

Paul will be joined by the footballer of the year for 2013 who will be unveiled at the annual All-Stars ceremony which takes place for the first time at the home of Gaelic games in Croke Park in Dublin on Friday, November 8.

The newly crowned hurler of the year, who will be chosen from the three Clare nominees - Tony Kelly, David McInerney or Podge Collins, also to be selected a week from Friday – will be present along with the Liam McCarthy trophy.

This star-studded line up will be in New York to pay tribute to this year’s Gaelic Heritage Award recipient, Niall O’Dowd, who is being honored by the GPA for the pivotal role he has played in Irish-US public life for over 30 years.

Also being honored on the night with the Spirit of Ireland award is Ciaran Murray, Chief Executive of ICON, global leader in clinical research and one of Ireland’s most successful indigenous companies.

Both Niall and Ciaran are strong advocates for the work of the Gaelic Players Association, striving to make a difference to the lives and off-field careers of our amateur county hurlers and footballers.

Niall O’Dowd is a key member of the GPA’s US Advisory Board and was instrumental in facilitating the recent staging of the GAA/GPA Super 11s Hurling game in the University of Notre Dame as part of the University’s game-day build-up to the USC clash.

ICON formed a partnership with the GPA last year establishing the ICON-GPA Life Sciences Scholarship program which provides funding for inter-county players engaged in undergraduate and post-graduate life sciences courses.

The GPA Awards Gala in New York was established in 2012 where former Coca-Cola President and corporate champion of Ireland Don Keough was honored.

Speaking about the forthcoming event in New York, GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell said: “We are privileged to be able to honor two exceptional Irishmen at our Awards Gala, both of whom have achieved so much in their lives for our country but have also been extremely influential advocates for the GPA, for Gaelic games and our players. 

“The aim of our dinner gala and fundraising efforts in the U.S. is both to strengthen our ability to support our players in critical areas of their lives and to bolster the GPA’s ambition to make a meaningful difference in Irish society. The importance of that work was once again driven home to us last week following the devastating loss of Niall Donohue.

“I would like to thank our hard-working dinner committee in New York for their outstanding efforts to promote and support this event.”

The Ireland-US Gaelic Heritage Awards Dinner Gala takes place at the New York Athletic Club on Thursday November 14 commencing with a general reception at 6.30pm. For information on the event contact Carla Capone, tel. 212-213-1166 or [email protected].