Criticism of American fundraising projects baffles GPA chief Dessie Farrell

Dessie Farrell is baffled by the criticism of the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) for undertaking fundraising projects with the Irish-American business community in the US.

The organisation has been proactive in securing revenue from the US and has sourced considerable funds there — monies some claim should be reserved for the local GAA fraternity.

Some counties are also known to have raised concerns over such activities privately in the belief they overlap with what are perceived to be traditional sources of income.

“I don’t really understand the criticism,” countered Farrell. “I’m at a loss to understand where people are coming from. In general, the people criticising … the money is being used to support their players so it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to me. We’ve gone out there, we’ve cultivated a different audience that has never been part of the traditional support base of the local GAA scene out there or anyone here. It makes us wonder as to the rationale for it (the criticism).”

The GPA has been hugely successful in sourcing considerable funds from the US in a relatively short period of time with a number of projects raising their profile across the Atlantic.

A number of players spent time helping to rebuild the shattered community of Breezy Point in New York after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, a project which caught the attention of US President Barack Obama.

Raising funds has been their core activity with hundreds of thousands raised for player welfare projects via the work of their US Advisory Board and Dinner Committee which held gala nights in New York’s Athletic Club and the Plaza Hotel. The former, attended by 300 guests, raised $400,000 in 2013 and another 100 people were present for the latter event last October.

The GPA has also just launched its inaugural Jim Madden Leadership programme at home, a project funded by Portroe-born and US-based businessman Michael Madden. It is believed up to $250,000 has been allocated for the first year of that scheme.

It is the concentration on high-flyers like Madden Farrell focused on.

“We’ve addressed this with the local (American) GAA as well. They do a great job in terms of games promotion and engaging with the diaspora and promoting the games. But they’ve never engaged that particular audience: corporate America, Wall Street, the finance district down there.

There are lots of people who benefit from that mix: charity, arts, etc. So why not sport?

“Why not the athletes who contribute so much to the fabric of this country? That’s the rationale we tell ourselves. We tell our story and our supporters over there like it and are willing to support it.”


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