Oisin Mc Conville tells his story about gambling addiction

Yesterday evening in the RST Centre, Armagh Legend Oisín McConville spoke of his struggles with Gambling Addiction to an audience of young and not so young. His first experience of placing a bet was at the age of 14 in a smoke filled backroom of a pub which had only a small portable television showing the race and he said he felt an immediate thrill when he placed the bet. From 14 to 18 his betting was quite small scale but he said that at 18 it began to spiral out of control. He would spend every last penny on bets. If friends called to ask him to go out, he would refuse as he wanted to keep the money for his next bet.

He got to a stage where he was borrowing and even stealing money to fund his habit. He mentioned that he had several nieces and nephews, but he was never asked to babysit them by his brothers and sisters. His brothers and sisters trusted him with their children, but they didn’t trust him in their homes as inevitably he would take any money he found lying around their houses.

Oisín told another story of when he went to London for an operation on his back. He had his operation and on the way back to the hotel he spotted a bookmakers shop. He urged himself to stay away from the bookies but he found the lure too strong and within minutes of returning to the hotel, he was off out to the bookies. He had £500 in his pocket that was to cover his expenses on the trip. Oisín separated £15 from the bundle of £500 and rolled it up and put it in the small pocket in his jeans. This was to cover his taxi fare back to the airport the next day. From that point on the remaining £485 was gambled away at the bookies. Oisín described the feeling of panic when he had lost the money. He started visibly shaking in the bookies. He couldn’t control the shaking. All he had left was the £15 in his small jeans pocket. He tried to walk out of the bookies, but couldn’t. The £15 was eating at him. He wrote dockets for a bet for £15 and rolled them up and threw them in the bin in a fruitless attempt to keep the money. His compulsion won over in the end and he gambled the last £15. The horse lost and Oisín was now penniless. He hadn’t eaten and now had no money for a taxi to the airport. Oisín awoke early the next morning and set out to walk the 8km to the airport. His journey to the airport and back to Crossmaglen was one of torment as he considered his addiction. He toyed with the idea of taking his own life but he was thankful that he hadn’t pursued this idea. Oisín walked into his home and his mother welcomed him back and placed a big hot dinner in front of him. He chewed up the dinner and while his mother was out of the room, he dipped into her handbag and pilfered through the presses to find some money to hit the bookies again. Oisín described how gamblers have this ability to forget their gambling issues really quickly and fall back into old habits in a matter of minutes.

A key message that Oisín conveyed was the shame and embarrassment he felt when he was gambling. He said that it was not a social habit. From the age of 20 he never gambled with anybody. He did it alone as he didn’t want people to know about his habit. He spoke of sitting in the dressing room and the lads would ask him how he was and he would say ‘All right’. He often thought that if they only knew the truth, what would they think?  Oisín described how he felt safe on a football pitch. It was his only place of solace away from the gambling. The people he owed money to, couldn’t get at him on the football pitch. He spoke about how his father was on his deathbed and he wanted to tell him about the gambling and most of all to tell him he loved him, but in his own words ‘he bottled it’!

Oisín knew in the last 4 years of his gambling that he didn’t want to gamble, but the compulsion kept him going. Each bet was an attempt to win back the money that he owed or at least that was how he justified his habit. His last bet was a £20,000 bet on one horse. needless to say the horse lost. Oisín had hit rock bottom and when he looked at the 460 people in his contact list on his phone, he could find nobody he could turn to for help. He said that when he was gambling he was like the man who spins plates on the top of a stick and has to keep all the plates spinning to prevent them falling. He was always trying to keep the plates up, but ironically it was when the plates started falling that his life started getting better. The constant pressure started to subside.

His sister was a big support to him and she urged him to get help. He entered a treatment centre in Galway and stayed there for 3 months getting the help that he needed. At this point he had worked out that he owed around £150,000 in gambling debts. When the treatment completed and he returned to Crossmaglen, he had this idea that people would have immediately forgiven him and that his friends and family would all welcome him with open arms. He quickly found out that this wasn’t the case and that it would take a long time to win back the trust and friendship he had lost through his years of gambling. He said it took about 5 years and a lot of effort to win back the trust of members of his family and he remembers the first day that he felt this trust return.

Oisín continues to attend Gamblers Anonymous as there is a real concern that if he doesn’t he could relapse into old habits. Oisín has beaten his addiction and is now helping others do the same by telling his story. He said that while it is not as visible an addiction as drink and drugs, there are signs to watch out for. He said that he was always broke if anybody asked him for money. He always had an excuse. He kept people at a distance all of the time.

His story is compelling and is a real insight into the dangers of addiction and gambling and the importance of having somebody you can trust to talk to if you hit a slippery slope and need to reach out for that helping hand. We thank Oisín for telling us his story and hopefully it will help some of our members and friends to avoid taking a similar road in life.

If you are in need of help with a gambling addiction, click on the following links to get some help


About the Author: The Webmaster

Comments are closed.


Club Shop

Club Policies & Procedures

Health and Wellbeing

Play Our Blotto online

Pay Your membership online

Sign up for our Newsletter

Skryne GFC Facebook Page