What UPMC’s Partnership with Gaelic Games Will Mean

UPMC was unveiled this week as the new Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association.

The partnership and sponsorship agreement will run for five years and means that UPMC, which offers trusted, high-quality health services at UPMC Whitfield Hospital in Waterford and other facilities in Ireland, will work with both sporting organisations to promote the health of Gaelic Players and the communities in which they live and play.

We sat down with Managing Director David Beirne and Business Manager Cillian Buckley, familiar himself with the surroundings of Croke Park as a two -time PwC All-Star to learn a little more about the company’s increasing reach into the Gaelic Games community.

SfB: What is it about the GAA that has attracted your interest and investment?

DB: The GAA is an iconic Irish brand, embedded at the hear of communities. Our mission is to deliver healthcare close to home and you can’t get closer to that than by partnering with the GAA.

It’s a great opportunity for us to partner with the GAA, with players, with Counties and with communities, as well as with other potential partners in creating a better sense of how we can look after ourselves.

SfB: What will the partnership look like on the ground?

DB: When you look at the other great partnerships that the GAA has there is often a product. We don’t have a product as such but what we do have is really deep global experience in healthcare and innovation.

We want to use that to engage with the GAA and the GPA in many ways including some pilot based delivery models that will help to create new conversations about how we approach the important element of how we look after health and wellbeing.

We are in this for the long term. This deal is for an initial five years and we will take our time, working in partnership to bring together some really smart ways in which we can add value.

SfB: You’ve been involved in an annual symposium on concussion, is that the kind of model you’ll be looking at in the early stages?

DB: Yes that’s been very successful. We have expanded the symposium out into training days with senior teams, running baseline testing and working specifically with a number of team doctors.

Sean Moffat from Mayo, Enda Devitt from Galway and Tadhg Crowley from Kilkenny have all spent time at the UPMC base in Pittsburgh training on our concussion treatment programme. They are all active within our UPMC Concussion treatment network, working with around 80 patients a month.

We have weekly calls looking at difficult cases. It’s locally driven and approached from an Irish perspective but we have access to all of our international learning which makes it a powerful way of looking at these important matters.

SfB: The experience you have in sport with the Pittsburgh Steelers gives you real credibility. How important is sport in your overall approach to healthcare

DB: Over the past 18 months we have invested €100 million in Ireland. We bought the Whitfield Clinic in Waterford and the Clane Hospital which has been rebranded as the UPMC Kildare hospital so we have a growing reach. We have a cancer treatment centre at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork and a new outreach centre in Carlow. It’s not just about facilities though. we are developing networks like that in concussion, and sports medicine provides us with a strong opportunity to do that in a key area.

The facilities we have in Pennsylvania and the network of doctors and physical trainers we have going out to clubs and schools is a model which we can also apply to Ireland. We can gel things together among the strong sports medicine and treatment community here. we are all about conversation and collaboration and the partnership with the GAA and the GPA facilitates that.

We have the ambition to do things differently and to do them better.

SfB: Will you be looking to roll out to every County?

DB: We have 32 counties in the GAA. Each of those teams is supported by their own physio and medical teams. We are available to work with each of them and looking to develop consistent pathways and protocols. It shouldn’t matter where you are from in the country. you should have access to the best thinking and the best treatment ideas regardless of where you live and play.

Bringing it all together and delivering a higher standard of care across the country is one of the things we will be looking to develop.

SfB: You both have a strong Kilkenny heritage and taking over the naming rights to what will now be UPMC Nowlan Park is another element of your recent engagement with the GAA. What’s your own background?

DB: I’ve played a lot of sport across rugby and soccer but Gaelic Games were number one and I did represent Kilkenny, playing Gaelic Football. We soldiered hard and we tried our best.

CB: This is my third year working with UPMC and this is a brilliant way to bring together my life playing with Dicksboro and Kilkenny into my working life as well.

SfB: Will you be front and centre on the partnership?

CB: It will be part of my role now as commercial director with UPMC Ireland. We are developing a number of different networks but this is certainly one that I am close to.

We have a steering group across the three organisations and we will all be bringing ideas forward. it is a five-year partnership and things will drop into place over time.

We are confident that we will be able to provide real assistance to the teams and the players.


UPMC, the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association are all members of the Sport for Business community of members.  We look forward to bringing you news of developments in their partnership over the coming months and years.


Image Credit: Sam Barnes, Sportsfile

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