Gambling addiction is a bit like carbon monoxide poisoning — you can’t see, smell, or taste it, but it gnaws in the background, leaving lives in shambles, in many cases with no way back.
To the outside world, Richie Power was a hurling wizard from Kilkenny with the game at his feet, but few onlookers knew of the “complete turmoil” he experienced outside the white lines as a result of gambling.
All-Ireland SHC medals fell from his back pocket and all was looking rosy in the black and amber garden, but his is an all too familiar GAA tale, repeated in clubs and counties across Ireland.
Ciarán Carey, who works in counseling, psychotherapy and addiction treatment, knows a thing or two about battling demons, but in the eyes of the Limerick hurling legend, there is little that compares to the dangers of gambling.
“Gambling is a different kind of animal,” Carey said. “It’s a lot quieter and a lot deadlier and it’s slowly but surely pulling you in, it’s very patient but it will wait for you.”
Former Armagh star Oisín McConville was one of those drawn into his vise-like grip before becoming a pioneer as he opened up about his gambling woes, while Offaly veteran Niall McNamee was another who gave his soul to the world subject revealed.
Both have tried to ensure that others in similar situations are aware of the pitfalls of gambling, but last October it was Tyrone All-Ireland SFC winner Conn Kilpatrick who drew the curtain on how gambling addiction had gripped his life.
This week, it’s Power’s turn to chronicle his decades-long struggle against gambling, and the list of those drawn into his darkness never ends. However, there comes a time when the GAA just needs to yell stop.
Why does the association allow gambling history to repeat itself over and over again? New faces will continue to share their unique stories of how gaming has ruined their lives, but what is being done to change that?
The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) gets a lot of encouragement but there is no denying that they are doing an exemplary job in providing advisory services in this area to 95 of their members in 2020, a trend that has continued to grow in recent years.
The GPA may currently be at odds with the GAA over player spending in a saga that will continue, but there’s no doubting the life-saving work the players’ body is doing behind the scenes for county players like Kilpatrick and Power. Are the GAA pulling their weight in this regard? If so, it’s hard to see where and how.
It may seem strange to say, but people like Power and Kilpatrick are actually the lucky ones whose problems have been identified and assessed before they embark on the long road to recovery through the use of various services available to them.
Other GAA players aren’t as lucky, however, as addiction counselor Justin Campbell pointed out last year when praising Kilpatrick’s willingness to go public with his problems.
“He was one of the lucky ones who actually got help and support and was able to solve it for himself, but there are thousands like him out there who haven’t been able to,” said former Galway hurler Campbell.
“Unfortunately it has continued and suicide is also very strongly associated with gambling so if people don’t solve it the consequences are very serious because gambling is progressive in nature.”
Campbell, who also served on the GAA’s National Health and Wellbeing Committee, says gambling has been “normalized” within the GAA and that it is a massive problem that shows no sign of abating.
Yes, the 2018 Congress banned the sponsorship of any GAA competition, team, gaming device or facility by betting companies, but the problems run far deeper. Gambling can still be found throughout the GAA.
Odds of all kinds on every GAA game under the sun are being tossed around in the locker room just as the weather used to be talked about and gambling is now acceptable.
This culture needs to change as gambling has already polluted our games enough. Let’s not wait for the next GAA player to tell their story, let’s act now.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/richie-powers-stark-story-shows-its-time-for-the-gaa-to-tackle-gambling-problem-41476333.html Richie Power’s stark story shows it’s time for the GAA to address the problem of gambling