Dessie Farrell reveals fears over emerging health worry for GAA players
GAA players nowadays are under all kinds of pressure and health concerns.
Trying to stay fit for an entire league and championship campaign at the very elite level is an almost impossible task.
But there is a growing awareness, and appreciation, that some injuries, or illnesses are much harder to diagnose than just a groin strain or an ankle that may need some strapping.
Mental health issues are becoming more and more of a concern for everyone in Irish society, and people are becoming more comfortable being able to discuss their emotions and problems which can only be a good thing.
The GPA have often offered counselling and support to inter-county and ordinary GAA club members who may need to discuss issues in private but according to Chief Executive Dessie Farrell, the association, and players, are now facing a bigger challenge.
The former Dublin forward has told the Irish Independent that the players representative body are now busier helping players with gambling issues than mental health problems affecting players,
"This year alone, we probably had 74 players who required counselling in various guises. Previously, depression was the biggest problem, but now it's gambling addiction.
"It's a major societal problem but, for some reason, I think sports people are particularly prone to it. Maybe because they have time on their hands, they're not out socialising with friends and they're obviously interested in sport. And if you want to gamble now, you can do it anywhere, any time."
"We're dealing with a number of cases at the moment . . . players with families, maybe wife and kids and commitments, everything is compromised. There's a lot going on in that space and I still think we're only scratching the surface."
"If you've a problem with alcohol or with drugs, it quickly becomes very visible to those around you. But this is so insidious that people can't actually see it. Individuals can be digging themselves a big, big hole. And it has all sorts of psychological impacts afterwards when it gets to a point where, literally, families are being devastated."
Farrell explains that the GPA are looking to create a dedicated program to help anyone who comes into contact with them for gambling issues and that player development is now the ultimate aim of the association.
Offaly football Niall McNamee and ex-Armagh forward Oisin McConville have both spoken out about their previous battles with gambling addiction.
Information on the the GPA's confidential counselling service is available here