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Gambling in GAA 'is devastating families'

By Vincent Hogan

Published 09/01/2016

Major issue: Dessie Farrell says gambling is big problem
Major issue: Dessie Farrell says gambling is big problem

Gaelic Players' Association boss Dessie Farrell has spoken of a gambling addiction crisis in the GAA now "devastating" some families of inter-county players.

"Previously depression was the biggest problem, but now it's gambling," the GPA chief executive said in an interview with the Irish Independent.

"If you've a problem with alcohol or with drugs, it quickly becomes very visible to those around you," he stresses.

"But gambling is so insidious that people can't actually see it. Individuals can be digging themselves a big, big hole. And it has all sorts of psychological impacts afterwards when it gets to a point where, literally, families are being devastated."

High-profile inter-county stars like Armagh's Oisin McConville and Offaly's Niall McNamee have both gone public in recent times about their own struggles with gambling, and Farrell reveals that the GPA's confidential counselling service helped 74 inter-county players deal with various issues in 2015.

Former Dublin All-Ireland winner Farrell was categoric when asked if the numbers that require counselling are going up?

Farrell said: "They would be. This year alone, we probably had 74 players who required counselling in various guises. Previously, depression was the biggest problem, but now it's gambling addiction."

Farrell added: "It's a major societal problem but, for some reason, I think sports people are particularly prone to it.

"Maybe because they have time on their hands, they're not out socialising with friends and they're obviously interested in sport. And if you want to gamble now, you can do it anywhere, any time.

"So we're trying to set up a programme in terms of awareness. We're using players who have come through problems themselves.

"Others might just see it as an issue in their own squads and want to get involved. We'll have that set up in the New Year and are christening it 'High on Life' as opposed to high on these addictive issues.

"Obviously all our work is confidential, but it's amazing the trouble that these young people are getting themselves into.

"We're dealing with a number of cases at the moment . . . players with families, maybe wife and kids and commitments, everything is compromised. There's a lot going on in that space and I still think we're only scratching the surface.

"If you've a problem with alcohol or with drugs, it quickly becomes very visible to those around you. But this is so insidious that people can't actually see it.

"Individuals can be digging themselves a big, big hole. And it has all sorts of psychological impacts afterwards when it gets to a point where, literally, families are being devastated.

"But when you look at the breadth of our membership, over 2,000 players, it's still a small percentage. We're just trying to raise awareness that these years are the formative years for their careers outside sport. The decisions they're making now are going to have a huge impact on the quality of their lives."

Belfast Telegraph

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