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bad habit ‘I was borrowing from friends and family, my brother, my granny’ - Tyrone star Conn Kilpatrick on gambling addiction

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Conn Kilpatrick discussing his gambling addiction and recovery on Claire Byrne Live. Photo: Claire Byrne Live.

Conn Kilpatrick discussing his gambling addiction and recovery on Claire Byrne Live. Photo: Claire Byrne Live.

Conn Kilpatrick discussing his gambling addiction and recovery on Claire Byrne Live. Photo: Claire Byrne Live.

Tyrone GAA star Conn Kilpatrick has opened up about his gambling addiction and how he managed to amass five-figure sums in debts on two separate occasions.

The 24-year-old All-Ireland winning footballer said he started betting innocently in his teens but his gambling habit soon became an addiction that saw him borrowing thousands to feed his habit.

Kilpatrick admitted he only stopped because he was caught after friends told his father and that it took him a while to realise the depth of his addiction.

He relapsed 18 months after he first stopped betting.

"In the back of your mind you know that you have a problem and I have had many a conversation with myself on the way home from the bookies thinking I had that money there, why did I gamble it all again? I had the money to clear my debts and do whatever I wanted and get whatever, a car I wanted or go on a holiday. It just obviously never worked out that way,” Kilpatrick said on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live.

“I think people had an inkling because obviously if I was in the bookies quite a lot, with the football, people would have been talking saying 'did you see him?’ or ‘he’s been coming in quite regularly’. Then in 2018 it kind of all came out. I had just borrowed too much money and stole that much money that it all caught up with me.

"I was borrowing from friends and family, my brother, my granny, different friends and just anywhere where I could get the money. I was maybe saying that I needed to pay the car payment or I was going on holiday and was a bit short and I needed a bit more.

"To be honest, I could come up with a lie as quickly as I could do anything. Whatever I needed to say to get it, I probably did say it. When you look back at some of the things I said, it was crazy.

"I wasn't a great person to be around. I was coming home and if I had won I was in a great mood but nine times out of ten I had lost so I was coming in very moody. Nobody could talk to me, I was always snapping back. I just wanted to go into my room and get on my phone and see who I could borrow money from, the next person, and what I was going to gamble on the next day, what football or horses,” Conn said.

Conn said he managed to stop betting for over 18 months but woke up one morning and said: “it was like something came over me”, and he began gambling again for a period of six months. He had amassed approximately £10,000 in debt for the second time.

He said once again it was his friends that alerted his family and that’s what brought his addiction to a halt.

"Again I was caught by one of my friends. I just borrowed again from too many people and he had gotten wind of it. He just rang my father and told him, I got the phone call from my father again and I just knew, back in 2018 I just knew and I just knew in 2019 when I was caught again.

"He was just distraught. ‘How can you let this happen, do you not know what you’ve obviously done to the family and the hurt you’ve caused’ and he was 100pc right.

"My mother wasn't in the house at the time, she was up at my granny’s and I begged and pleaded with him not to tell her and that I would get through it with him. He obviously couldn’t not tell her. He rang her and she came down to the house and we sat in the same living room that I sat in the year and a half before and just had to get everything restarted again,” Conn said.

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The Tyrone star has not gambled in over 18 months and said former Armagh footballer Óisín McConville has been a big help to him in his recovery, admitting they have a “close relationship".

"I can go to bed sleeping at night without worrying about who I owe money to, about where I’m going to get the money tomorrow. I can go to training. In the past I was going to training to probably get away from it and take a break from it but it was still hindering my football.

"Now I can go to training fully focused on the pitch and know what I have to do and know that nobody has anything to say to me,” Conn said.

He encouraged anyone going through the same issue to reach out to family, friends or Gamblers Anonymous for help.

"Whenever I was caught it was still a weight lifted off my shoulders and if you’re big enough to own up then you deserve far more credit that you think you’re worth,” he said.

Gamblers Anonymous can be contacted at: https://www.gamblersanonymous.ie

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