Michael Dorgan in New York
“The services we are providing are life-changing interventions”, those were the compelling words of recently appointed Gaelic Athletic Players Association (GPA) Executive Officer Paul Flynn when he spoke at the Ireland-US Gaelic Heritage Awards and Dinner Gala in New York earlier this month.
“There are players that for whatever reason come under difficult times and they know that we’re there to support them and we have been there to support them and they’ve been very outspoken with the fact that the GPA has in many ways saved their lives and changed their lives for the better”.
The fundraiser, now in its eight-year, celebrates the contribution Gaelic players make to the cultural and social fabric of Ireland and has been a successful revenue generator for the player’s body as it continues to grow in size and influence. The event continues to enjoy sponsorship from Tipperary-born Declan Kelly’s, Teneo Holdings, an international consulting company based in New York City and brought together some of the country’s top male and female players including Declan Hannon, Jack McCaffrey, Seamus Hickey, Aoife Murray & Sinead Aherne.
RTEs Marty Morrissey hosted the event in front of 300 attendees at the magnificent ‘Capitale’ building in Lower Manhattan which also included an auction, Q & A session as well as an encapsulating solo performance by Finbar Fuery who was honoured with the GPAs Lifetime Achievement Award.
Had wonderful night here in New York at the GPA Ireland -USA Cultural Awards event in Manhattan. Met the legendary Finbar Furey who won a Lifetime Achievement Award & spoke on stage to Declan Hannon, Jack McCaffrey, Aoife Murray & Sinead Aherne on stage.@gaelicplayers @RTEgaa pic.twitter.com/3aJYsDh087
— Marty Morrissey (@MartyM_RTE) October 5, 2018
“We have delivered over 10,000 programmes, a record 1,500 programmes delivered this year which is remarkable and life-changing in many ways for our players and this year we’ve had an unprecedented demand we can’t even keep up with the demand for our services at the moment”, said Flynn.
The Dublin All-Ireland winning footballer also highlighted a recent study published by the ESRI and commissioned by the GAA and GPA which established the demands of playing at inter-county level.
“Our players on average are committing 31 hours (per week) of their time to their inter-county preparation. That’s on top of their careers, their personal lives, it’s remarkable and our players, they don’t give out about it, (they’re keen to do it) and we’re there to support them.
But one telling statistic for me was the reaction to the question, ‘Who would you feel most comfortable approaching if you had an emotional or mental difficulty?’ And the GPA was number one by a margin – ‘That’s powerful to me’.
So for me, if we do nothing else as an organisation that’s enough, but we don’t, we do so much more.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Limericks All-Ireland winning hurling captain Declan Hannon:
“It was probably the standout thing for me when I was in college that the GPA were there to help you and you know without them a lot of people would have struggled, in terms of finance and a lot of mental health issues as well with different people and different teams that you would never hear about so the GPA are always there to give a dig out no matter what it is, little or small or large or whatever, they are always there and they’ll listen and they’ll try and help you out as best they can.
You’ll hear from the latest report that people go to the GPA to talk about issues rather than going to family at some stages as well so that’s how trusting players are in the GPA and it’s continuing to grow and I suppose just to get more awareness out there from players that they know what the GPA have to offer and it’s not just a grant like there’s a lot more that they can do for you as well.”
The GPA offers members undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships, personal development programmes, business start-up and career programmes amongst other services and the Irish American partnership have announced they are committed to providing $100,000 to the GPAs scholarship fund, that’s going to support players that are studying to become teachers over the next three years.
“The people are great here in their contributions that they have given to the GAA and the GPA over the last number of years,” says Hannon.
A rare but wonderful sight served as the backdrop to the night’s proceedings. Displayed side by side were the Liam McCarthy (hurling), O’ Duffy (camogie), Brendan Martin (ladies football) and Sam Maguire cups (football) representing the equality between the codes which was reinforced by Women’s Gaelic Players Association Chairperson Aoife Lane.
“The Ethos of the GAA is about family, it’s about community, and it’s about inclusion,” said the lecturer and Head of Department of Sport and Health Science at Athlone IT.
“And what that means from my perspective is that boys and girls or men and women, they can have the exact same dream, there’s no glass ceiling for women in Gaelic games, they achieve the same thing, and its incidental for Sinead Aherne and Jack McCaffrey that when they put on the Dublin jersey, that they are a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter for them it’s the exact same sense of pride, the same sense of honour and if you talk to them tonight you’ll realise it’s the same commitment, the same resilience, the same sacrifices that they give to their games.
For me and for society, it’s really important that for a young girl in Ireland knows that she can achieve the exact same thing as he brother or her friend in her classroom.
“The GPA and WGPA have the same principal, we feel that we can do things together, we do the joint sponsorship programmes, joint leadership programmes and we get our players involved in shared social responsibly programmes initiatives as well, around homelessness and around equality.
My hope is that it becomes incidental that an All-Ireland winning captain are great players are great captains, are great teams are men or women. That we don’t talk about that anymore, what we talk about is their skills, their abilities their experiences their resilience and that that’s how we differentiate individuals rather than men or women.”
Finbar Fuery playing the banjo at the GPA Dinner in New York
— Michael Dorgan (@M_Dorgan) October 14, 2018
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#throwback to meeting Irish musical legend Finbar Furey at the @gaelicplayers Dinner in the @capitalenyc last week. Finbar was honoured with a Lifetime achievement award and was outstanding performing classics like "Sweet Sixteen" and "Green Fields of France (Willie McBride)".