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Matthew Snoddy believes lives will be saved by Irish League Players' Union


Better place: Matthew Snoddy has struggled with mental health issues in the past

Better place: Matthew Snoddy has struggled with mental health issues in the past

Better place: Matthew Snoddy has struggled with mental health issues in the past

Glenavon midfielder Matthew Snoddy says he believes a proposed new Players’ Union in Northern Ireland could save lives.

Plans are being put in place for a Professional Footballers’ Association NI (PFANI) and it will address issues such as mental health and player welfare.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of nurturing and protecting our mental health and Irish League players have had to deal with personal traumas throughout their careers.

Several players have bravely shared how they have battled a gambling addiction including Snoddy, Coleraine’s Aaron Traynor, Portadown’s Michael Ruddy and Cliftonville’s Conor McDermott.

Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Trevor Carson and striker Kyle Lafferty, former player Keith Gillespie and Armagh All-Ireland winner Oisin McConville have also spoken about having an addiction to gambling.

And it’s understood the ex-GAA star is being approached by the new players’ body to provide support for players in need.

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Snoddy (28), has spoken honestly about how a gambling addiction drove him to the edge of suicide when he was at Crusaders but the support of family, friends and his Christian faith helped him turn his life around.

The Greenisland man, who scored his first goal for the Lurgan Blues last weekend, is now hoping the new body can steer players out of a dark place.

“It’s a great idea and a long time coming for our league. It has my strong support,” said Snoddy, who also enjoyed a loan spell at Coleraine earlier in his career.

“I know what it is like to struggle to the point where I could have ended my life.

“We could lose friends or team-mates because men talking about their problems is frowned upon.

“If players receive the support they need, it can save a life. So many things can harm your mental health like an addiction or a close relative dying. To have someone to go to for advice could make a massive difference.

“My personality was to deal with things by masking them and put on a front. I was good at hiding the gambling and that’s why it spiralled out of control.

“I could put a smile on, behave normally and people wouldn’t notice what I was going through.

“I have accepted my past and can gauge when people want to talk about it. I spoke to Aaron (Traynor) before he spoke openly about it. Other players have spoken to me privately. You think it will never go away but I’m proof you can turn your life around.

“It can be a constant battle but I reached the edge and was able to pull back.”

Snoddy is settling into his new home with partner Leeann and looking forward to becoming a father for the third time.

“I’ve honestly never been happier. With a new home and baby on the way, family life couldn’t be better with Leeann,” says Snoddy, dad to Jensen (8) and Jude (4).

“My Christian faith never leaves me.

"It was tough not being able to get to church during the pandemic and I struggled a bit but things are better now. It’s a struggle at times but I will never lose my faith.

“The gambling isn’t even a thought anymore for me, I wouldn’t cross even a small boundary.

“I wouldn’t risk the chance of kick-starting it again. It can be triggered, I’ve seen that happen but I don’t want to take the risk. In fact, it’s almost been forgotten about.

“I’m comfortable talking about it and people know my history. Before I spoke about it, there wasn’t a lot of attention on it. I was one of the first in the Irish League to open up about it and then other boys including Aaron Traynor have spoken to me about it.

“People have been asking for advice and that’s a positive. For me personally, I thought there was something wrong with me. How can other people gamble and it not affect them in the same way?

“I quickly realised it was a bigger problem than I thought.”

Anyone affected by gambling can contact the National Gambling Helpline 24 hours a day on 0808 8020 133 or visit the GamCare website.

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