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Ex-Tyrone star to give gambling awareness talk in Clare

FORMER Tyrone footballer Cathal McCarron will be at Wolfe Tones GAA in Shannon at 4pm on Saturday, where he will be speaking about gambling addiction.

McCarron was a sub when Tyrone won the 2008 All-Ireland, while he won four Ulster titles and was twice nominated for an All-Star, before his retirement in 2019.

Just over five years ago he released his autobiography Out of Control (which was ghost-written by Clare journalist Christy O’Connor), in which he was candid about his gambling addiction and the dark places it brought him to.

The book was an explosive read, certainly one of the most memorable GAA autobiographies, in which he recounted what was a chaotic lifestyle.

He says he likes to give talks like the one on Saturday, and he feels it’s important to keep drawing attention to problem gambling.

“I don’t do as many as I’d like, but hopefully I’ll get more time to do them. The way things are going the gambling only seems to be getting worse, so if you can spread some awareness and help people watch out for signs or help lads that are in difficulty, I think there’s no better thing to be doing.”

McCarron says that he won’t be preaching an anti-gambling message, but wants to show how dangerous it can be.

“What talks are good for is showing people that if they place a bet what could happen if they are not responsible. It’s not about saying don’t place a bet, it’s about saying what could happen if you’re not responsible in how you gamble.”

He worries that the last two years have intensified the country’s gambling problem, with more people turning to it for a distraction, particularly those who have been working remotely.

“People who worked in an office environment, they’re at home now, more time to themselves, they’re not being watched and when you don’t have that structure in place the mind wanders. People who didn’t have an issue, who probably didn’t even gamble, can be running into problems, two years on.”

He says it can be very hard to get people to admit they have a problem, but at some level those in trouble know it themselves.

“If you think you have a problem, be honest with yourself, you know deep down if you have a problem or not. You know.

“It’s like me playing a match tomorrow, I don’t need the paper saying if I had a good game or not, I know. If you’re a gambler, you know if you have a problem.”

Having stopped gambling for a number of years, he recently moved into a new house with his partner and two children, something he said he couldn’t have done once.

“I’m a million miles away from where I was before. If I was gambling there wouldn’t be a hope of buying a house.”

For those who are coming to the realisation that their gambling may be excessive, he says Gamblers Anonymous offers excellent support.

“They’re all around the country, there’s a website Gambling Anonymous Ireland and that’ll give you information on where they’re on and what time they’re at.

“You’d be very surprised, you might see people in that meeting who you never knew had a gambling problem, there could be people in recovery for 20 years.

“It’s daunting going for the first time, but I’m telling you it’s the best place you can be. When you’re in there, you share, you get stuff off your chest, there’s no better feeling.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.