Sport

Ireland goalkeeper Niall Morgan says gambling is a problem in GAA

Niall Morgan talks GAA with Cahair O'Kane Picture by ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

IRELAND goalkeeper Niall Morgan believes that the depth of gambling addiction among GAA players spreads through every changing room in the country, but that curtailing it will prove difficult.

The Tyrone stopper, who as the only goalkeeper on the touring party is guaranteed to start both International Rules tests, admits that there is only so much the GAA and GPA can do to raise awareness around the problem.

Morgan worked for a local bookmaker for five years before moving into teaching and says that the lack of conversation within changing rooms around the topic means its extent is probably largely unknown.

“It definitely is [widespread]. The GPA will do a questionnaire every year and ask: ‘Do you think gambling’s a problem in your dressing room?’ and you’re always saying no, because you don’t know.

“You’re not going through someone’s phone or asking ‘are you gambling today?’ It’s not something you really talk about.”

The GPA operates a counselling service that has supported hundreds of inter-county players on a wide range of issues, ranging from the more minor end of the scale to serious addiction and depression.

Former Offaly footballer Niall McNamee, who in 2013 admitted that he sold his car and lost €8,000 all in one day at the height of a crippling gambling addiction, is one of the GPA’s ambassadors on gambling.

Other high profile cases include former Armagh forward Oisin McConville, whose debts from gambling touched €100,000 while he was at the height of his footballing powers.

Niall Morgan (inset) has seen the destruction it can cause first hand during five years working for a local bookmaking chain before he moved into teaching.

Speaking during a week that traditionally sees Australians gamble millions of dollars on their annual Melbourne racing festival – last year’s figure was estimated at $657m – Morgan admits

that it was a “scary” sight to see customers squander money during his previous job.

“I enjoyed watching the horse racing when I was working and you’d have a wee lucky 15, something small, but I wouldn’t be a big gambler.

“I could sit in the house and footer with £5 in my account. I learned from people coming into the bookies’ and throwing all their money on horses.

“It is scary to see people coming in and they don’t know when to stop. I know all the adverts at the minute tell people: ‘When the fun stops, stop’, and you can’t emphasise that enough.

“It’s important to learn when the right time is to stop. I know the GPA are doing a big drive at the minute.

“It’s an easy one to hide if you’re gambling because there are so many outlets for it, with mobile phones you could be betting and people wouldn’t even realise. It’s a tough one.

“When you win, you do get a big buzz out of it. You see that working in the bookies’, people would be jumping up and down celebrating a win, but it wouldn’t have been long until they’d be slumped over the table or the chair and maybe the whole winnings are gone again.”

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