'£10 bet in Kilbeggan nearly cost me my life' - GAA star
Published 01/05/2016 | 02:30
He was just 11 years old when he placed his first "harmless IR£10 bet" at the Kilbeggan races in Co Westmeath.
But by the time he reached 19, GAA star, Niall McNamee was a compulsive gambler, betting up to four figure sums, seven days a week.
The cruel addiction ruined relationships and polluted his mind and yet, at the time, he says the bookies was the only place he "felt safe".
After a painstaking five-year journey to rid himself of the habit, the Offaly footballer says the problem in society, and within the GAA community, is worse than ever.
"It's gotten a lot worse compared to when I stopped. It's probably at an epidemic level. It's a general topic of conversation in dressing rooms. Lads would say if they'd a bet on or if they won money. The people who are saying it mightn't be the ones who have a problem; it's the silent ones that are doing it uncontrollably," he said.
He says the emergence of online gambling apps shrouds the crisis in secrecy. He says some playing at a high level are particularly vulnerable.
"I got a huge buzz out of it, it was similar to the buzz I'd get before a big game. It replicated that energy. If I backed a horse, and he was coming around the last bend, with big money on the line, it was an adrenaline rush just like being on the pitch," said the 30-year-old.