Cathal McCarron's gambling woe revealed amid 'spike' in GPA helpline calls
THE Gaelic Players' Association (GPA) has revealed that over a third of the calls to its helpline are gambling-related.
Tyrone's Cathal McCarron has become the latest high-profile inter-county player to struggle with a gambling problem and the GPA says the issue is second only to depression when players make use of its counselling service.
McCarron, who has been nominated for an All Star after he helped Tyrone to an All-Ireland semi-final appearance, is currently in London and the GPA insist structures are in place to support its members.
"We don't comment on specific cases but we treat gambling as an issue in itself, it's that serious," said spokesman Sean Potts.
"We have issued guidelines to our members. For most people it's enjoyable and fun but there are dangers there. There is a potential for addiction and match-fixing which are not always related but they can lead into each other."
Since the helpline opened in 2010, they have received more than 100 calls from players with over 30 of them reporting gambling-related issues. After extending their helpline to a 24-hour service on a trial basis last Christmas, the GPA opted to retain their round-the-clock service.
"Elite athletes don't have certain social norms and outlets that other people of their age might have. And gambling is so easily accessible and can be done in secret so it can be dangerous. The GAA are looking at what we are doing here with a view to applying it for the wider association," said Potts.
"We have noticed a spike this year and when players like Niall McNamee and Alan O'Mara speak out, it makes it easier for others to talk about their problems.
"We can provide support to players in these situations in terms of proper diagnosis, aftercare and addiction counselling.
"We don't deal with the ancillary problems. For example, we don't pay any debt that may arise but we're there to support in other ways and help with residential care if required. There is support there."
Offaly star McNamee revealed his addiction last year, while Oisin McConville detailed his struggles in his book 'The Gambler'.