The first-ever Boston gala devoted exclusively to a celebration of Gaelic Games players was a smashing success last month as a sell-out crowd packed the State Room overlooking the city’s harbor to dine and drink with an all-star line-up of GAA stars past and present.
The gala —hosted by the newly formed Boston Friends of the Gaelic Players Association— also served as a launch pad to announce the return of hurling to Fenway Park with a pair of matches planned for this November.
An array of legends— including 17-time All Ireland champion Briege Corkery— was on hand for the dinner and reception, which featured Irish sports commentator and TV personality Marty Morrissey in the role of master of ceremonies. Aidan Browne, a partner at event sponsor Sullivan & Worcester and chairman of Boston Friends of the GPA, kicked off the night with a rousing introduction of the cause itself— which was aided immensely by the work of the Irish American Partnership, the key local organization in support of the dinner.
The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) represents more than 2,200 current Gaelic footballers and hurlers in Ireland. Its services include personal development, education, leadership, health, and well-being programs. The Boston Friends of the GPA was established last year to support these athletes and to increase the profile of the Gaelic Games in the United States.
Offaly football star Niall McNamee and former Cavan goalkeeper Alan O’Mara spoke passionately about the huge impact that the GPA has had in their own lives and careers. Dermot Earley, a former GAA star who now leads the GPA, was on hand for the dinner gala, as was his predecessor Dessie Farrell, who founded the organization. A committee of more than 40 Boston Irish leaders organized the event.
The dinner doubled as a celebration of news that broke the day before: Fenway Sports Management confirmed that the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic and Irish Festival will return to Boston’s hallowed ballpark for a double-header on Sun., Nov. 19. The classic will build on the huge success of the 2015 match between Galway and Dublin, which ended in a 50-47 victory for the Galway men in front of nearly 30,000 fans.
No word yet on which teams will travel across the pond for the 2017 Classic, but Dublin — the main team supported by event sponsor AIG— is a lock.
“We are fortunate to have great partners in AIG, the GPA, the GAA, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the city of Boston to help bring this exhilarating sport back to Fenway,” said Mark Lev, managing director of Fenway Sports Management in a statement. “FSM is proud to play host to one of Ireland’s most traditional sports and further our commitment to bringing unique events to Boston.”
More on the Boston Friends of the GPA can be found on Facebook and online at BostonIrish.com.