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Thursday 27 April 2017

'£10 bet in Kilbeggan nearly cost me my life' - GAA star

ADDICTION: Gambling in society is probably at epidemic levels, said GAA star Niall McNamee. Photo: James Flynn/APX
ADDICTION: Gambling in society is probably at epidemic levels, said GAA star Niall McNamee. Photo: James Flynn/APX
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

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.

Sunday Independent

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