At the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) CEO Champions Luncheon event in Boston yesterday, attended by over 300 leading Irish American CEOs and senior business leaders, details were announced of a new “Team of Champions” initiative. 15 Individuals or companies have been invited to each take a field position on this unique gaelic team (from goalkeeper to left corner forward). Each team member will make a $5k donation to the GPA emotional health and wellbeing programme. In doing so they will assist vulnerable players by supporting an emergency 24/7 bespoke phone line, one to one counselling, residential treatment programmes and relevant one to one follow up. The “Team of Champions” concept will be rolled out across a number of cities in the US over 2019. Funds raised will also support a campaign to be launched by the GPA in conjunction with high profile players, aimed at encouraging vulnerable teenagers who may be experiencing emotional health challenges to reach out and get the help they need.
Speaking at the event in Boston yesterday Paul Flynn CEO of the GPA said; “The launch of ‘Team of Champions’ will help the GPA to meet some of the demand that we are currently experiencing for mental health support programmes from players past and present. The findings of the recent ESRI report into the demands of the modern day game on county players show how players are at a higher risk of depression than the general population. As a committed players’ body we have a duty of care to our members that we take very seriously. In the face of greater demand we are determined to continue to roll out mental health supports nationwide to assist members where they live, work and play. This would not be possible without the generous support of our friends and supporters in the US for which we are very grateful.”
Mayor of Boston (and long-time friend of the GPA) Marty Walsh lent his support to the new programme. Mayor Walsh said; “ I wish to acknowledge the important work being carried out by the GPA to support their amateur players who give so much to the national games of Ireland and who contribute in a very significant way to the fabric of Irish society. The “Team of Champions” concept not only supports players encountering their own mental health difficulties but it also involves other high profile players acting as role models to help vulnerable teenagers across Ireland. The relationships that the players’ body has forged here in Boston with business leaders and organisations such as Boston College, The Irish American Partnership, Fenway Sports Management, Brown Brothers Harriman and the Boston Friends of the GPA are hugely valuable in supporting these types of programmes. The many events planned by the GPA over the coming days, which coincide with the hurling at Fenway, help to develop meaningful business, educational, cultural and sporting connections. As a passionate second-generation Irish American it is a source of great pride for me to attend The Fenway Hurling Classic again tomorrow afternoon. This event serves to deepen the bond between our two great countries and long may that continue.”