Five years ago, Offaly star Niall McNamee was at the height of his inter-county career. He had been playing for Offaly since the mid-2000s and had solidified himself as one of the top forwards in the county.
But at the back of all this lay a dark addiction that took hold of his life – something that he hadn’t spoke out about, gambling.
Now McNamee is clean, he doesn’t drink or smoke, and he now tells his story to people in the hope that they won’t go down the same road as he did.
However, the All Star-nominated forward believes that a gambling culture is becoming a thing of normality within all sports, particularly GAA.
“You see it now in the dressing room, it’s a general topic of conversation,” McNamee said.
“Be it soccer, GAA, horse racing, it’s becoming the norm, especially now with all the apps available it’s so accessible.”
McNamee also thinks that since the people in government don’t understand the matter enough to deal with it, therefore it is somewhat swept under the carpet.
“It’s something that is kind of brushed aside, addiction in general, not just gambling. The people in power more or less say ‘oh we don’t really understand this so we’re not going to touch on it.'”
Despite this, McNamee believes that anyone who has any sort of addiction needs to help themselves, rather than having people help them.
“They have to be able to put their hand up and ask for help. You can have the best support in the world, but if you’re not willing to help yourself you’re going nowhere.
“There are a load of great places out there to help people but they have to be able to see they have a problem.”
Throughout his addiction, McNamee used football as his escape from his worries and to this day says it was a great method of escapism.
“Football was probably the only escape. For that hour or 70 minutes, the trouble was gone.”
Whilst talking of his troubles, McNamee also speaks about leadership and what it takes to be a leader out on the pitch.
“I think, you need to be a strong personality and be a positive person.
“You need to be honest. If the person is honest on and off the pitch, that creates trust between the team and that shows out on the pitch.”
Enda Coll, Pundit Arena