Farrell says GPA coming to grips with members’ major gambling issues

GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell admits gambling is going to become a bigger problem among their members as the modern day inter-county player has never been more socially isolated.

Niall McNamee and Oisín McConville’s publicised accounts of their addictions have created awareness of the issue but are only the tip of the iceberg for the official players body.

The Irish Examiner knows of one inter-county manager who recently looked for counselling assistance for several of his players after becoming alarmed by their betting habits.

The GPA have programmes in place to assist their members with gambling difficulties, which Farrell states are accentuated by their strict lifestyles. Asked if inter-county players live in a bubble, he said: “I think so. That plus the accessibility of being able to place a bet. It’s definitely an issue that will take up more and more of our time and of our resources.”

Farrell revealed the GPA is coming to grips with just how serious an issue gambling is in the organisation.

“What’s been intriguing for us over the last 18 months or so is to understand the level of the problem out there. Niall is very high profile, as is Oisín McConville’s before him. But there are many others (cases) that come to us. To put it in perspective, in our mental health programme, gambling would have the highest incidence of players presented to our counsellors, on that basis. Depression would be next and you’re working your way back from that. So it is a big issue. I think the problem is the type of lifestyle our players lead. And all that goes on with the game these days.

“Maybe socially they’re not as active as other civilians in society. So they have time on their hands, particularly late at night, or whatever the case may be.”

Farrell knows the issue of gambling is not exclusive to the inter-county player in the GAA although the stringent circumstances he finds himself in can make him more exposed to the problem.

“You hear stories now of it happening on buses on the way to games. Fellas on the phone placing bets or whatever. So it is an issue and will get bigger for us. We’re still trying to find our way with it a little bit because you don’t want to introduce something on a knee-jerk basis.

“But the more we understand of it the more we realise there is a significant problem among not just county players but GAA players.”


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