Tipperary’s 2006 All-Ireland minor hurling final hero Timmy Dalton lifted the lid on his gambling nightmare this morning, writes Jackie Cahill.
Dalton, who lined out alongside current Tipp senior stars Pádraic Maher, Brendan Maher, Michael Cahill, Noel McGrath and Seamus Callanan in the underage ranks, revealed how his gambling addiction developed following that Croke Park success a decade ago.
Dalton scored 1-3 against Galway in that minor decider but he suffered a serious knee injury in 2007 and gambling took a firm grip on his life until he entered a treatment centre in July 2015.
Dalton has been in recovery since then and attends weekly Gamblers Anonymous meetings.
Dalton, speaking to reporter Stevie O’Donnell on Tipperary Mid West Radio, revealed how he knocked on his parents’ bedroom door in the early hours of the morning to inform them that he wanted to receive help last year.
Dalton had attended his first GA meeting when he was 21 and visited “numerous counsellors” between the ages of 22 and 26.
He stopped gambling for a ten-month spell following a relationship break-up but after resuming worse than ever, he received treatment and has been free from addiction since then.
In a wide-ranging 20-minute interview, Dalton also revealed how various teams he has been involved in operate text and WhatsApp groups to discuss gambling, and how he’s seen teammates reaching for their mobile phones at half-time and after games to check results.
Anybody shocked by latest GAA gambling-related news really shouldn't be. It's rife. Foolhardy to think otherwise— Peter McNamara (@PeterMcNamara_) June 1, 2016
Dalton said: “It’s a massive problem. I’ve been involved with a lot of teams down through the years and gambling has been a part of all those teams. We have text groups or WhatsApp groups and you have people constantly talking about prices of other teams, what’s a good bet, what teams have a good chance this weekend or what teams are missing players.
“I see it now, even with my club and different teams, where people are coming in at half-time or after matches, checking their phones and checking results.
“Your head can’t be 100 per cent on something if you’re interested in something else. They’re checking if they’ve won or lost and that will affect your head and your performance.
“There needs to be a strong enforcement of it. With GAA teams, there needs to be a meeting saying, look, gambling has to be curtailed, it has to be stopped.
“We can’t be openly talking about gambling and backing teams when you’re involved in teams because it does get into people’s heads.
“Talking openly about gambling needs to be stopped in a team and personal environment.”
Dalton’s relationship with gambling began when he was 14 or 15, he recalled, with small bets on the Grand National.
But after entering third-level education, the Arravale Rovers clubman, who went on to play senior football for Tipp, was betting on midweek and weekend soccer games.
He explained that his biggest win was €1500 on Rory McIlroy in a golf event but that “no amount is enough.”
Dalton added: “If you won €1m, you’d look to win €2m. That’s just the way it is, you’re addicted and there’s no limits. No matter what you win, you’ll always want to win more.”
Dalton’s addiction progressed to a stage where he was taking money “lying around at home”, borrowing money from his parents and taking out bank loans.
Dalton, a bank official, added: “Thankfully I never did anything stupid but I’m sure if it got to a situation where I was in a bad way, that I would have thought about doing something stupid.
“I was surrounded by money but I never did anything stupid like that. I had morals as well but still when I was gambling, I would do everything anything possible to get my hands on money to finance my addiction.”
And he revealed: “I went into treatment in July 2015, that was after years of trying to stop. Two years beforehand, I’d lost a relationship and I stopped gambling for 10 months.
“I was in a relationship with a girl for seven years, it broke down and gambling was a major factor in that. It totally changed me as a person when the relationship broke down.
“I was heartbroken, mentally I was in a bad way. All I wanted to do was lie down in bed and go asleep. I couldn’t see how this pain was going to end.
“I still get very down at times, rethinking about the pain I caused. I was a zombie walking around the place.
“I was walking around with my head in the clouds, you couldn’t have a proper conversation with me, I was hooked on gambling. That was the number one thing in my head – I couldn’t think about anything else.
“When I was gambling, I disconnected from everything, I wasn’t speaking at home, I was a person you weren’t able to have a conversation with.
“You just hit a point where enough is enough and thankfully last year, in July 2015, I realised that I had enough and I needed help.
“One night, I was heavy gambling at the weekend, I had used up all my avenues of getting money, whether it was loans, taking money at home, or asking my parents for money, they had said ‘we can’t give you money anymore.’
“They knew I had a massive problem. I went gambling one weekend and went to bed on a Sunday night. I woke up at four or five o’clock in the morning, went down to my parents’ bedroom, knocked on the door and told them that I was going to get help. They were delighted to be honest, it had caused them a lot of pain for years, seeing the way I was. They knew, they were the closest people to me and knew how it was affecting me. I went and rang the treatment centre.
“It’s something that I have to watch for the rest of my life. I have to watch this every day of my life. I’m avoiding bookmakers, people talking about betting, certain situations where betting is going ahead.
“I’m keeping up my meetings once a week, I know that if I stop going to these meetings that I could fall back into a slump or forget about the pain that the gambling caused me.”