All-Ireland winner Davy Glennon details the money he gambled as hurling 'papered over the cracks'
All-Ireland winner Davy Glennon left court last week aware his addiction ruined lives, writes Wayne O'Connor
Each time Davy Glennon saw a garda on the street he was filled with dread. The Galway hurler was convinced he was about to be arrested for stealing thousands of euro from his employers.
He considered himself a menace to society and his gambling addiction left him on the brink. For too long he did nothing about it. He was paralysed with fear but still consumed by the pursuit of adrenaline only gambling could give him.
Glennon began working for a wholesale company in 2010. He remembers his start date vividly because it was a week after the Galway races.
His gambling habit would threaten the company's existence after he stole an estimated €70,000 and handed it over to betting companies.
Last week the 27-year-old was given 240 hours' community service in lieu of seven concurrent two-year prison sentences after pleading guilty to seven sample charges of theft from the same employer. The charges related to the theft of various amounts of cash from J&C Kenny Wine Distributors totalling €40,460. At their peak his gambling debts tallied close to €200,000.
His mother has had to re-mortgage the family home near Loughrea, Co Galway, to repay her son's debts.
When he started working at J&C Kenny Wine Distributors, he hadn't realised how bad his problems were. But, the addiction had already brought an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker to an end and he had accumulated significant debts.
"I was in denial for years at that stage and thought I would fight my way through it and that would be it, that I wouldn't back a horse again but every day I got up all I could think about was when can I get to the bookies? What time does the bookies open? Have I the money to gamble?
He started working in the storeroom, sorting consignments of wine and spirits to be delivered the following day.
"Because of my hurling commitments I can't drink or take drugs. The outlet I had and the buzz I got was from gambling."
But, gambling had already veered into dangerous territory. Driving home one night after a day in a betting shop he was stressed and tired. He fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. Glennon's car was ruined so he made a claim on his insurance to cover the repair costs. The €4,000 payout landed in his account before the weekend but was passed over a betting shop counter before he collected his car three days later.
"I was living a life of imaginary function so I arrived for my car and told them I was waiting for the money to come through.
"A week passed and the garage owner came looking for his money but I wasn't answering the phone to him.
"I was thinking 'I'll make the money back in the bookies and pay him back'. I believed I would get a few bob together and pay him back until the day where I came back from lunch in work and his lorry was waiting outside (to tow the car away).
"I used the crocodile tears in front of him. I told him I gambled the money."
Glennon turned to his mother, Eileen, for help.
"I was nervous telling her I gambled money I should never have spent but, as a loving mother, she didn't want to see me lose my car because I wouldn't be able to get around or go to work.
She was funding my addiction but she didn't know the full extent of my problem. She paid the garage.
"From then on it was problem after problem.
"I found a man in Sligo who said he would give me €3,500 for the car if I met him in Tuam. The car was worth €8,000. He looked at the car and gave me €3,100 for it.
"I had to wait an hour or two in Tuam for my friend to pick me up. I went into the bookies and I had all of that money gambled within an hour. I had nothing to eat, a little bit of credit in my phone, no car and no money. There was no rational thought. I just wanted more money."
He was given an opportunity in work to get out on the road as a sales rep and cover shifts for colleagues when they were off sick or on holidays.
It was a positive career move but only served to feed his addiction further.
"With the hurling it was easier to sell and have chats about the matches. It was easier to break the ice with customers or publicans. It all worked and it was all adding up to be successful.
"At that early stage I was gambling my own few pound and the little bit of spending money that I had but, then, as the weeks, months and years went on in the job it was getting to a stage where I had become a chronic and compulsive gambler. Not only was I gambling my own money, or loans I was getting from credit unions and banks, but it was work's money."
He had access to cash from sales and instead of lodging it he would hand it over the counter at a betting office.
"I was setting up fake (customer) accounts to fund my addiction and get cash, selling drink for half what it was worth to get cash flowing.
"You might have a win and it would be enough to keep you ticking over for another week or two. It would take the pressure off.
"The hurling was papering over the cracks. All I was doing was gambling and hurling."
The tension only ever got worse. Glennon eventually cracked in 2015.
"Towards the end I was going to places where I wasn't known so I could gamble all day without anybody knowing about it.
"If I was doing it around here people would say: 'Ah yeah, Davy Glennon is in the bookies shop'.
"I was isolating myself from people who were asking about my gambling. I often drove to Dublin, Clare, Limerick, Sligo - I remember going to Swinford. I would go anywhere to get a quiet spot and if I had the money or ammunition to do it I was going there.
"I remember training in Athenry and a garda car passed and I was thinking: 'Is that for me? When are they going to come to the door?'"
During Cheltenham week in March 2015, Ruby Walsh and his 4/7 favourite Annie Power fell at the last hurdle on day one of the festival. It was a cruel blow for punters who had backed her and three other well-fancied Willie Mullins-trained favourites to win. The fall was dubbed the most expensive bullet the betting industry ever dodged and saved bookmakers £40m. Glennon had stood to win €58,000 after placing €2,000 on her to complete the quadruple win.
He admits he would not have held on to the money for long.
Four months later he played poorly in a Leinster final and was substituted after just 27 minutes. The pressure was becoming unbearable.
That night he got home from Croke Park and found himself alone.
"I knew it was going one way or another. If I did not get help I was basically going to kill myself. I didn't want to kill myself but wanted to kill the life I was living, but the only way to kill that life was to do something tragically.
"I said there was one way for this to end until I got a text from my younger brother to say he was coming home from the game with my uncle. He was asking me to leave the door open.
"It clicked with me that I was leaving something behind."
He thought to himself: "Am I that selfish? I have a brother who doesn't realise the extent of my problem, and my parents. Was I so selfish that I could leave them with a burden?"
Two days later his employers uncovered the scale of what had been happening. That evening he was in the Cuan Mhuire addiction treatment centre in Oranmore for a 12-week residential rehabilitation programme.
He got two A4 pages and filled them front and back with the details of sums he owed. His mother handed it over to gardai who eventually came knocking on the front door with it.
A victim impact statement read in court by Aoife Kenny, a director at J&C Kenny Wine Distributors, said Glennon's thefts were a "huge betrayal" and could have put the company out of business. They had a serious impact on her life and everyone associated with the company.
"We struggled for many years to repair the damage he has caused both personally and financially," she said.
The thought scares Glennon. He left court last week and apologised. He is determined to pay back his debts and has committed to raise awareness on the issue. He still regularly calls to Cuan Mhuire and has been working with Fianna Fail on the party's proposals to amend gambling laws.
"It's frightening," he said.
"It makes me sick to think about the amount of money I have gambled.
"It is not just money, it is the relationships that have broken down, trust I have lost. Being a menace to society, I have caused an awful lot of hurt for people and wasted a lot of time and caused a lot of hurt and destruction, not just to my life but family, friends and employers.
"I just want to go through life without ducking and diving, without trying to con people and without being a compulsive liar."