Gambling addiction the biggest crisis facing senior GAA players
Gambling addiction is now the biggest problem afflicting senior GAA players, according to the boss of the players' union.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, Gaelic Players' Association chief executive Dessie Farrell says the gambling addiction crisis in the GAA is now "devastating" some families of inter-county players.
High-profile inter-county stars like Armagh's Oisin McConville and Offaly's Niall McNamee have both gone public in recent times about their own struggles with gambling.
Mr Farrell reveals the GPA's confidential counselling service helped 74 inter-county players deal with various issues last year.
"Previously, depression was the biggest problem, but now it's gambling addiction," he said.
"It's a major societal problem but, for some reason, I think sports people are particularly prone to it. Maybe because they have time on their hands, they're not out socialising with friends and they're obviously interested in sport. And if you want to gamble now, you can do it anywhere, any time," he said.
"If you've a problem with alcohol or with drugs, it quickly becomes very visible to those around you. But this is so insidious that people can't actually see it. Individuals can be digging themselves a big, big hole. And it has all sorts of psychological impacts afterwards when it gets to a point where, literally, families are being devastated," he added.
The GPA is now setting up an awareness programme, using players who have come through the problem themselves.
Mr Farrell says the work being undertaken on gambling addiction is extremely important for the individual players concerned.
"Most of them are in a really dark place with this. They're fighting this demon. They have this addiction issue but there's often a huge financial implication to what they've done that lends itself to borrowing money and, often, from the wrong people. Which, clearly, brings you into a darker side again."