Top Irish footballer admits to gambling addiction that almost ruined his life
Says he was saved by the Gaelic Players Association and his father’s intervention
A top Irish Gaelic football player has described how a gambling addiction almost ruined his life.
Niall McNamee, captain of the Offaly football team, told the Irish Independent that his father’s intervention and that of the Gaelic Players Association saved his life.
McNamee has become an ambassador for the GPA to highlight the message that there is help for despair that comes with addictions of all kinds, and that help is available, so please take it.
"The GPA have been brilliant. They have so many services available to players and they have been a great help to me," he explains.
"That's what I'd love to change – I'd say to anyone struggling with addiction that if you come forward to the GPA they will put you in contact with people who will look after you and put you on the right road and help to get your life back on track. But you have to break the silence."
McNamee recalls: "When I was gambling I knew I shouldn't have been in the bookies. I knew I didn't belong there. Everything about the place was wrong but I just couldn't stop going back.
"And then, when I lost money, I'd say 'that's it, never again.'
"As soon as I got money again, I was back gambling. Once you get to that stage, there's no going back from it. It's just madness until you actually put your hands up and say 'that's it, I'm beaten.'
"And even then it had to be dragged out of me. And that, I think, is a massive burden. People don't realize it's not like being an alcoholic or whatever. With alcohol there'll probably be a lot of physical signs and a lot of people see it, whereas with gambling it's all in your head, you're keeping it all within.
"I would have been in a bookies and lost the value of a car, and come out and someone would say 'how are things?' and I'd say, '100pc, not a bother'. That's insane.
"Sometimes, because I was in trouble and went into a bookies and made a lot of money I thought I could keep doing that, but eventually it just became too much and I couldn't actually stop it.
"It wasn't until my father confronted me over it, that I broke down and said 'that's it'. That was the best thing I ever did, but looking back, at the time it was the hardest thing I ever did because I didn't want anyone to know my weakness."
"My family and friends and the people of Rhode have been a terrific support for me," he says. "Gerry Cooney (his counselor) too, has been very good to me, and has been a massive part of my life. He more or less saved my life in a lot of ways, in terms of getting me back. I owe him a massive debt of gratitude."
"As time has gone on, and people see me around, some people do come to me or get my number and text me or e-mail me or chat to me on Facebook or whatever," he explains.
"I used to think I was the only person with this problem. When I was spending all this money I used to say 'what is wrong with me?' but there's thousands of people in the same boat.
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