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Former players talk of betting danger

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Offaly footballer Niall McNamee. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Offaly footballer Niall McNamee. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Offaly footballer Niall McNamee. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

THE GAA is becoming ever more vulnerable to the threat of match-fixing if the recent escalation of gambling addiction continues amongst players.

That's the view of Oisín McConville, the former Armagh forward who racked up debts of over €125,000, and Offaly's Niall McNamee (above), who, by his own estimates, squandered more than €200,000.

The pair were speaking at the launch of the GPA/GAA's gambling guidelines in Croke Park yesterday, aimed at making players more aware of the dangers of easy-access betting.

Though neither player wagered on matches in which they were directly involved, McNamee admitted it was a route he may have taken had he not faced his demons in November 2011. "Gambling can bring you to a stage where you're absolutely desperate," he explained.

"It could have gone to the stage where I need X amount of money and how am I going to make it? It's one thing that I could do that I might have control over. So, definitely, if a person gets into trouble and they don't see a way out, that could be an option."

McConville, too, admits there was "lots of temptation" to punt on games in which he played.

"I could walk into a Gamblers Anonymous meeting and there might be 16 other compulsive gamblers," he recalled.

"When I tell them that I never put a bet on my own game they will snigger or laugh to me to say that is not the way compulsive gamblers operate."

In 2012, 12 inter-county players sought help for their addiction through the GPA. Last year, that figure rose to 22.

Now an addiction counsellor, McConville insisted, "there's lots of high-profile players who are in bother," adding: "Some of them would be in serious bother."

"The greatest danger is if we go down the road where a couple of players get together and try to influence the result of a game.

CASES

"Let's hope we can nip that in the bud before it actually happens. There have been a lot of high-profile cases in cricket and soccer or whatever where that has happened before. I can't imagine why the GAA would be any different."

GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell, who said that the problem was also trickling down to underage players, admitted that it would be "naïve to think that it couldn't potentially be an issue" within Gaelic games and said evidence from other sports showed that individuals who found themselves in gambling trouble were the ones most vulnerable to corruption.

"FIFPro (the representative organisation for most professional soccer players) put together a very interesting book in relation to gambling and corruption in sport and how gambling was pivotal to that.

"And how the criminal underbelly can somehow hone in on those players who have gambling issues and basically get them to influence the outcome of games or whatever.

"So, in terms of the integrity of the game, it's those players who tend to have an issue with it in the first place who are most exposed to further problems around that."

Farrell added: "All we can take our lead from is what happens elsewhere. And if it happens in other sports, we would be naïve to think it won't happen in our own sport."


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