Gambling crisis 'devastating families'
Gaelic Players' Association boss Dessie Farrell has spoken of a gambling addiction crisis in the GAA now "devastating" some families of inter-county players.
"Previously depression was the biggest problem, but now it's gambling" reveals the GPA chief executive in a wide-ranging interview carried in today's Irish Independent.
"If you've a problem with alcohol or with drugs, it quickly becomes very visible to those around you," he stresses.
"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."
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, and Farrell reveals that the GPA's confidential counselling service helped 74 inter-county players deal with various issues in 2015.
Former Dublin All-Ireland winner Farrell also defends the GPA's Championship proposals which call for an increase in the number of inter-county games, something GAA president Aogan Ó Fearghail seemed to categorically rule out in an interview on these pages last November.
Farrell believes that their proposal is not, as Ó Fearghail implied, dead in the water.
"We were taken aback by those comments," he concedes. "Some of the players would actually have contacted us, saying 'Hang on a minute, we're actually after investing a lot of time and effort into this. . .'
"It took months to put together. All of a sudden their work seemed to be completely dismissed.
"But we've got assurances that there is actually going to be an internal process within the GAA to look at the various aspects."
Farrell also expresses confidence that the 'Fenway Hurling Classic' can become an annual event in Boston and questions the logic of fining the Galway and Dublin county boards ¤5,000 each for a brawl at this year's inaugural event at the iconic Fenway Park.