Belfast Telegraph

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Kyle Lafferty has taken a huge step on road to recovery, says Oisin McConville

By John Campbell

If Kyle Lafferty still harbours any doubt that he chose to speak publicly about his gambling addiction, then former Armagh All-Ireland winner Oisin McConville is better qualified than most to set his mind at rest.

Plagued by the pressures, constraints and depression that accompanied his 12-year gambling affliction, McConville candidly admits that he only began to find a modicum of relief when he put his woes into the public domain.

"I believe that Kyle stands to benefit from the same sense of relief," insisted McConville.

"I would be very familiar with what he has been suffering over these past few years and my heart goes out to him. But now I am absolutely certain that he has taken a bold step which will help to fashion the rest of his life."

It was at his peak as a player when he was a matinee idol as the Orchard County reigned supreme in Ulster and the island as a whole that McConville endured his worst gambling nightmares.

"I haven't the slightest doubt that, without ever speaking to the man, Kyle would have suffered these dreadful symptoms while he has been representing Northern Ireland," he said.

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Fronting up: Kyle Lafferty has admitted he has a gambling problem

"I think, though, he has taken the first decisive step towards putting all that behind him. Just like me he is not going to undergo an overnight transformation but I think he will slowly but surely find himself getting into a better place.

"I feel he would have agonised for some considerable time before going public but I think this is part of the inner strength that he is now gaining. He still has much to offer both at club and international level and I believe he should be given every encouragement in this connection."

McConville admits that he himself endured protracted periods during which there was "no sign of a light at the end of the tunnel", yet somewhere in the dark recesses of his mind a small voice told him to front up, which he did eventually.

"I think Kyle can now turn his life round, he will feel better within himself. Obviously there may be some adverse publicity because people are always keen to sit in judgment and take the moral high ground, but they would not have a clue about the agonies that addiction of any nature can heap on a person," said McConville.

And he paints a stark picture of just how young, talented sportsmen can quite often find themselves deviating from the normal path that their lives should follow.

"To be honest, we get used to the adulation and the buzz of playing in front of big crowds and maybe winning things," said McConville. "I think this maybe gives us a sense of bravado so when we start to gamble or indeed do other things we tend to go at it full on. And when losses are incurred we get more reckless in our bid to regain our money, and before we know it we are in serious difficulties in more ways than one."

The multi-decorated Crossmaglen Rangers dynamo now urges Lafferty to ensure that his support mechanisms are in place and to respect and co-operate with them.

"I found that I had to put myself in the hands of others and thank God I have never looked back since then," revealed McConville. "From the bottom of my heart, I wish Kyle well.

"He must regard a dark chapter in his life as being closed and focus on the future for the sake of himself, his family, his club, country and countless fans. I am sure that the vast majority of people will be behind him and that in itself should provide him with the spur to start life afresh."

As well as attaining considerable success on the field of play, McConville has already garnered experience at management level having taken charge of Crossmaglen Rangers and Dundalk IT. He is already being spoken about as a possible future county manager but is in no hurry to move onto a higher plateau as yet.

He offers encouragement to Lafferty on this front, though.

"While Kyle has certainly not lost his knack of being able to put the ball in the back of the net or indeed his skill at creating chances for others, I think it behoves him to look even further down the line," added McConville.

"We all have travails of one form or another to endure in life but quite often people can come out the other side as more confident and complete individuals. None of us are perfect, but I think Kyle will now come to reflect on what he might have missed out on in life and want to make amends. None of us know what the future holds but we just have to try and be the best we can be. Kyle deserves this chance and I wish him well."

Belfast Telegraph

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