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'get help' GAA star Domhnall Nugent opens up about struggling with addiction and homelessness

The Antrim man struggled with cocaine and alcohol abuse

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Domhnall Nugent

Domhnall Nugent

Domhnall Nugent

GAA star Domhnall Nugent has opened up about the years he spent struggling with addiction and homelessness.

"There were two options," he said in an interview with RTE: “Go ahead on the road you were on, the one that would kill you, or go get help."

Domhnall said he had a difficult childhood and struggled with his parent’s divorce, which led him down a path of cocaine and alcohol.

"I was lucky, I had the GAA and that became my escape. But around 18 I had started drinking and that then became my escape and from there cocaine became another escape,” he said.

“I don’t know about anywhere else in the country but it is easier to get cocaine in Belfast than a packet of cigarettes. You don’t have to leave the pub because boys bring it to you,” he said of the city’s drug culture.

“They don’t even always look for money there and then, you run up a tab and then they knock on the door when you haven’t paid up and that brings its own issues. That’s the road I was on. I didn’t need the GAA anymore because of drink and drugs. At least that’s what I thought."

In summer of 2019 he lost his apartment on the Falls Road in Belfast and found himself sleeping rough. After a night in the pub, one of his team mates offered him a lift home but he declined as he had nowhere to go. That night he slept on his grandmother’s front porch.

"The next morning, I could see my granny’s face and what I had done to her, how worried she was about the state I was in. That was a low moment,” he said.

The Antrim man spent 12 weeks in drug rehabilitation centre Cuan Mhuire. After leaving he said he felt he needed more support - and so he reached out to the Gaelic Players Association.

"You were going from a sanctuary back to the big, bad outside world," he remembers. "And I knew I needed more help."

"I had been on the Antrim hurling panel in 2017 but I wasn’t even a county panellist anymore when I rang them, It didn’t matter. The GPA arranged a counsellor to come and visit me in Belfast and I met them once a week,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have been able to afford the services, but they paid for everything. They were a huge help to me in finding the road back. I went to all my AA meetings on top of that and that support system has helped me recover."

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The GPA have since launched BEO360, a service to help players with their wellbeing, lives and careers. Nugent hopes his story will encourage other players to get the help that they may need.

"I would hope that players who are struggling show courage to be honest. Would you be embarrassed about coming out of a bookies’ after losing all your money? Would you be embarrassed about rolling out of a pub at 2am off your head? But why would you be embarrassed about going to seek help somewhere?

"This programme will help normalise that it’s OK to have issues in your life, that people do struggle, but that something can be done about it.

"I sought help, the GPA helped me, people around me helped me and now I want to take my life to a different place. Don’t get me wrong, I still have times where I am uncertain, but life is good now.”

Domhnall is now living back at his grandparent’s house and has a job at a car dealership in Antrim.

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