A number of male GAA stars from across Ulster are believed to have been victims of a widescale catfishing ordeal, which has been uncovered by the hosts of an Irish comedy podcast.
Johnny O’Brien – half of the 2 Johnnies duo – has been documenting with listeners his experiences of being catfished by a woman he met on Instagram over a year ago.
Better known by fans as Johnny B, the Tipperary native revealed how one woman – who has not been named – has been in contact with himself and around 40 men from across the island of Ireland, using a number of fake profiles to catfish each individual.
‘Catfishing’ is the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona, and in this particular case, the offender seems to have tricked multiple Gaelic footballers with this method, including some from Ulster.
Johnny B suspected this may have been what was going on, after this ‘Instagram woman’ who had contacted him then repeatedly backed out of attempts to meet, coming up with various excuses.
Thus, the podcasting pair spent time and money – including €79 on an image search app that helps identify people in photos (but in this instance, pulled up nothing) – trying to investigate.
They have come to the conclusion that one woman has been behind an intricate network of falsified social media profiles this entire time, with one person contacting the two friends, alleging that the same person catfished them eight years ago.
In the second instalment of ‘The GAA Catfish’ series, released last week, the 2 Johnnies sit down with psychologist Louize Carroll, to delve into why people want to catfish others.
The episode - which has now become their most shared ever, according to streaming service Spotify – also reveals how 12 men from the world of sport and entertainment got in touch with the duo after hearing the first episode, believing that they too have been catfished by this same person.
Johnny B also commented that “numerous" third-party sources of "well over 30 men" – including well-known GAA players – have claimed to have been targeted.
They said it appears that a number of different Instagram accounts are linked to the same person.
“She has used these accounts to catfish approximately 40 men from all four provinces. No one has been asked for money," said victim Johnny B.
"We're never going to reveal the identity of anyone that’s connected to this story. All we can hope is that this catfishing stops and anyone who is tempted to do something realises how wrong that is,” added Johnny Smacks.
“And also there was nothing illegal in this, there's nobody who has been asked for money or tried to be scammed from these accounts. We need to state that but look, these people have been affected by this, their lives have been affected and it needs to stop.”
Chartered occupational psychologist Louize said that a condition called erotomania – which refers to obsession over someone in the public eye – could be the reason behind why some people take it upon themselves to catfish others.
She continued: “You might have a need to connect emotionally when you’re in a more vulnerable stage of your life. It’s important to have a network around you who can detect that something is amiss when situations like these arise.”
The modern term of ‘catfishing’ originated from the 2010 American documentary Catfish, which follows Nev Schulman – the executive producer – as a victim of catfishing. Then 24 years old, he had cultivated a relationship with what he thought was a 19-year-old girl from the Midwestern United States, but which turned out to be a 40-year-old married housewife.
“Here's the thing. This is something that you see on Catfish the television show and you think 'that only happens in America'. This has happened in Ireland to a lot of people and a lot of people that we all know in the entertainment industry in the GAA, everywhere,” said Johnny Smacks.