Former Armagh star and addiction counsellor Oisín McConville says the admission by Jim McGuinness that Donegal players bet on themselves last year is “worrying”.
McConville, who has recovered from his gambling problems, believes a team punting on themselves to win games is potentially the thin end of the wedge for vulnerable players.
He also takes issue with the “light-hearted” nature of McGuinness’ revelation.
In his soon-to-be-released book “Until Victory Always — A Memoir”, McGuinness confirms Donegal players made a large sum of money by backing themselves to beat Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.
“We were available at 10/1,” he wrote. “They had a few hundred euros on themselves.”
McConville has also criticised the GPA’s silence since the story broke and called on them to make a statement indicating their disapproval of the 2014 Donegal panel’s actions.
He has likened a team betting on themselves to a gateway drug: “It’s like somebody on marijuana, and two years down the line they’re on cocaine. A fella going from a shandy to brandy. It’s a gateway into the wrong approach to gambling.
“When I was on the Armagh team, there was a bit of a gambling culture there but for a lot of lads it was quite healthy and a social thing. But there’s always one or two lads who struggle badly with it. In that regard, you’re being asked like everyone else to put in 20 or 100 and for that lad it might be the tip of the iceberg. Absolutely the thin end of the wedge.
“When I go to England to do bits and pieces with Premier League clubs or rugby league clubs, it’s great, because there is no question about what they’re allowed and what they’re not allowed to do — they’re completely banned from betting on their own sport.
“In GAA, that has never really been addressed and it probably can’t be because it is an amateur organisation. There has been a litany of stories of players who have bet on themselves to be the first goalscorer although I’ve never actually seen it proven.
“You don’t want to come across as a killjoy or somebody on a crusade but I think it’s important people realise the other side of compulsive gambling.
“Okay, one day you might be betting on yourself to win. A lad in big trouble down the line might say ‘let’s bet on ourselves to lose today’. I know it’s a team game but there are a lot of players who would have a big impact on what’s happening. A goalkeeper, a freetaker, you name it. It’s worrying.”
McConville has had a couple of run-ins with the GPA before on the issue of gambling and hasn’t been encouraged by their lack of reaction to the Donegal story. “I’m waiting with bated breath for the GPA to address this. Usually, when I do an article which in anyway crosses the GPA’s path or sounds as if I’m having a go at them, I get a text message or an email saying ‘what am I on about’. But in this case, the GPA need to stand up quickly.
“This is in the public domain three or four days and we’ve still heard nothing from them. I would rather if they were proactive rather than reactive rather than somebody doing an article and the GPA coming to them and saying ‘hold on a second’. I’d rather the GPA go ahead and make a statement. That’s their responsibility. The PFA in England would be all over that like a rash and you would be under no illusions as to what their opinion on it was.”
McConville, who co-manages Crossmaglen in an Ulster club quarter-final against Antrim champions Cargin this Sunday, said McGuinness was unwise to allow such behaviour take place.
“Until you actually have first-hand experience of it, there is that blasé attitude to it. That ‘Jesus, there’s no harm in what we’re doing’. I’m sure whoever comes out, be it the GPA or whoever, and say something his retort will be ‘There’s no harm in it. There’s none of our boys struggling with gambling.’
“He doesn’t know that. I think he could have handled it better and said, ‘Listen boys, this isn’t a road we should be going down’.”
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