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Drug issue Limerick hurling legend Ciarán Carey warns cocaine abuse is rampant in the GAA

Years ago, it would have been alcohol, now it’s cocaine and alcohol, alcohol and gambling or all three'

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Ciarán Carey. Photo: Mark Condren

Ciarán Carey. Photo: Mark Condren

Ciarán Carey. Photo: Mark Condren

A three time hurling All Star, who now works as an addiction counsellor has claimed there is a huge drug issue within the GAA,

Limerick legend Ciaran Carey told the Sunday World, ‘There has been a huge shift in addiction with the “big one” now being cocaine, followed by gambling

‘Years ago, it would have been alcohol, now it’s cocaine and alcohol, alcohol and gambling or all three”.

‘Addiction is such a complex issue. Unfortunately, it’s the only disease that will tell you you don’t have it, that you will be okay the next time.

‘Coke is a huge problem among younger players especially at club level, if a player, and it can be a boy or girl, at 17 or 18 years of age is using cocaine they will drop out of sport walk away from relationships and have problems at home that is inevitable.

‘My experience in recent years in both my professional capacity and as someone involved in hurling is that Cocaine abuse has become a phenomenon within the GAA and that is something that is almost accepted and understood by all involved.

‘Cocaine use can be a lot more hidden than say a person who has an alcohol addiction but in the long run the problem displays itself on the pitch, in the early stage of using coke a player will still be playing but eventually it will overcome the desire to play and they will walk away from it.

‘‘If you are using coke long enough and often enough the need for it becomes stronger and basically sees everything else get sidelined.

‘Trust me coke doesn’t take bank holidays it eventually kidnaps you and holds you prisoner.’

Carey who is involved with the Limerick based My Move counselling service says the problem is not as big at inter county level due to players being tested on a regular basis, and while he feels that the testing of club players would help he sees issues around that.

‘Ideally if there was testing at club level, it would be a great help but it would be difficult logistically; it would be treading on dangerous ground and people would have the right to say no.I’d say we are a bit far away from that.

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‘At county level, even back in the nineties when I was hurling there was testing and we were well educated on what we could and couldn’t use even for something as simple as taking medication for a cold we had to be sure what was in it.

‘I had addiction issues myself surrounding alcohol but as for using Performance Enhancing Drugs that was a no no the thought never crossed my mind I was careful what I put in my body and the fact that no county player has yet been outed as failing a test shows players today think the same as I did.

‘However at club level substance abuse is at epidemic levels, I guarantee you if you ask any club man working with youngsters at any club in the country they’d agree with that.’

The Patrickswell player who won All Stars in 1992,’94 and ‘96, is twelve years sober now but says he never hurled under the influence.

‘I never did but I will tell you straight up that I played soccer at a decent level while I was drunk from the night before and that is a big regret because I know in my heart if I had taken soccer seriously I could have made a right go of it.

‘I was fortunate in that when it came to the point I finally accepted I needed help and reached out for it that it was there for me and I can tell you 110% I am a much nicer person now than I was back then.

‘I’m not one for lecturing people about the dangers of drink and drugs anyone who like me knows the value of good support wouldn’t go around talking like that but through my job I like to think I can offer advice based on experience.

‘In 2018 myself and the wife were at the All Ireland final when Limerick won by a point to take the trophy for the first time in forty five years, I shed tears of joy but having a drink to celebrate never entered my head.

‘I am one of the lucky ones who turned things around and right now there is a huge amount of young GAA players need help to do the same.’

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