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Tyrone GAA's Cathal McCarron: Mickey Harte has always stuck by me

Tyrone Manager Mickey Harte at the Ulster Senior Championship in Clones earlier this year. Photo by Philip Walsh.
Brendan Hughes

TYRONE GAA's Cathal McCarron has told how he was spared jail for fraudulently using credit cards in his mother's name after receiving a character reference from Mickey Harte.

Already gambling heavily by the age of 17, the footballer applied for three credit cards in his mother's name to access more money.

He concealed the scam from his parents by creating a false address and intercepting post to hide any letters demanding payment for thousands of pounds.

His mother eventually reported the matter to fraud investigators, not knowing the culprit was her own son.

McCarron has broken his silence on his gambling struggles in a tell-all autobiography – including how he even appeared in gay pornography for cash to feed his "destructive" addiction, as reported in yesterday's Irish News.

He describes how a reference from Tyrone manager Mickey Harte helped him when the credit card fraud case went to court.

"The police officer who interviewed me quickly identified that I had a serious gambling problem. I didn't have any money stored away. I wasn't hoarding cash," he said.

"When I ended up in court, Mickey Harte came to my assistance. He gave me a character reference which helped my case.

"I received a suspended sentence. I was in the clear. For now."

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Praising his manager, McCarron added: "Harte has always stuck by me. He has consistently shown massive trust and faith in me, both as a person and as a footballer."

In his candid book being released next week, the Dromore footballer also tells how he:

:: Played women off one another and had up to seven 'on the go' at the same time.

:: Was nearly jailed after being accused of assaulting a traffic warden in Strabane over a parking ticket.

:: Would like to move into Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) when he gives up GAA.

The 28-year-old has spent years battling his gambling addiction, with two prolonged spells in rehab and regular Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

He said he fled to London after being threatened by the IRA when his gambling habit led to him stealing from family, friends and neighbours.

But McCarron has made significant strides in his recovery, playing a leading role in the Tyrone team's Ulster Senior Championship victory this year and training as a counsellor.

The father-of-one has also settled with a new girlfriend and they are expecting a child together.

However, McCarron told how his former "womanizing" led to him having up to seven women 'on the go' at the same time.

He said he was "playing women off one another" and described the "buzz" as similar to placing bets.

"I had always been a wild man for women. I was hard to tie down. When I was single, I could be texting six or seven women at the same time, playing one off the other," he said.

"I loved women, but addiction has many forms and my promiscuity was just another strand of gambling.

"I always had to be texting some woman, just to caress my ego as much as wanting to be with that girl.

"Some of them really liked me, but I was only using them. I didn't care.

"Playing women off one another and sneaking off behind their backs was just laying bets without losing money. The more women I had on the go, the bigger the buzz.

"I was always trying to manage and manipulate those women, but I couldn't control that stream of highs because I wasn't able to fully control myself.

"Some of my actions were high risk, but I got off on that thrill," he says in the book.

He added: "I was kissing two Maeves at one stage. I sent one Maeve the message intended for the other Maeve. I was caught out immediately, but I just tried to lie my way out of it. When she wasn't buying it, I couldn't have cared less. I just moved on to the next girl."

McCarron described his numerous brushes with the law and court appearances over the years.

In 2009 he punched a man in the head during a brawl outside a chip shop in Dromore during a night's drinking following an Ulster championship match. In court he was given a warning and a £250 fine.

And in another incident he faced jail after being accused of assaulting a traffic warden in Strabane over a parking ticket.

"I lost my temper over something I should have been able to control," he said.

"He tried to put a ticket on the windscreen of the car, but I stopped him. I didn't physically lift a hand to the traffic warden, but I stood in his way to prevent him from sticking it under the wiper."

McCarron said he roared at the traffic warden, who then made a complaint to police of assault.

He said he could have faced prison because of his previous suspended sentence for credit card fraud, but he said he "got lucky" and the case was thrown out.

McCarron had already attended rehabilitation for gambling at the time, but was on the verge of relapsing.

"I was still sober from gambling at that stage. I was still trying to do the right thing, but the complacency I had shown towards my rehabilitation was being reflected in my life," he said.

McCarron is studying to be a counsellor in a bid to help others. He also said he trains in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and would like to pursue it further.

"I'd love to leave football in good enough shape that I could give MMA a rattle for a year or two, to see how far I could push it. I feel I could turn my hand to it, definitely," he said.

:: Cathal McCarron's autobiography Out of Control, written by Christy O'Connor, is released on October 20 through publishing house Simon & Schuster

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