GAA hurler who lost €25,000 on one bet says recovery from gambling addiction will take 'to the day I die'

Intercounty hurler Derek Morkan lined out for his native Offaly for many years, but while off the...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

12.03 31 May 2021

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GAA hurler who lost €25,000 on...

GAA hurler who lost €25,000 on one bet says recovery from gambling addiction will take 'to the day I die'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

12.03 31 May 2021

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Intercounty hurler Derek Morkan lined out for his native Offaly for many years, but while off the field he lost a staggering €800,000 through gambling.

He told Newstalk Breakfast it started from when he was a teenager and eventually escalated.

"I was 18 years of age, I grew up around a family with horses, and I would have had a casual bet and had an interest in the racing industry from a very young age.


"I always dreamt of being a jockey... at that age of 18 then I started having casual bets on a Saturday or the weekends with my brother.

"Maybe sometimes with friends and stuff, and it would have been very small bets, and that's how I got introduced to the gambling first of all.

"It wasn't long before it started to progress very quickly, that I was going doing bets without the company of my brother or other people - I was sneaking off doing them myself."

'From €5 to €25,000'

Derek said in one particular instance, he lost €25,000 in one go.

"It was the feeling and the buzz that I got around it that I just wanted to go back every time.

"It started off with a €5 bet to my maximum bet in most recent times of having €25,000 on one individual horse.

"I bet €25,000 on one individual horse, and that horse lost.

"And when that horse lost I did still have money and I actually rebuilt that small amount of money - I think it was £150 - because I was in England at the time.

"I built that money up to 90,000 and 10 days later, I wasn't able to afford a cup of tea.

"I was trying to borrow from people over in the UK to get myself some food."

'Everything deteriorated slowly'

But he said his emotional health took an even larger toll.

"Financially it got worse and the amounts of money got worse and the frequency - but the emotional side of things got 10-times worse than actually the money side of things.

"Every time I was placing a bet, I was burying every single emotional feeling that was going on inside my body.

"When I started betting I started an apprenticeship, I was hurling intercounty, I had a lovely car, I had a relationship - but everything in them areas deteriorated slowly but surely.

"It got to the point where I was not turning up for work, I was leaving work early, I was turning in late for work, I was leaving at lunchtime going betting.

"In my career around the hurling, the first three to four years I really enjoyed and then that slowly deteriorated as well.

"I couldn't function, I couldn't keep my head... I couldn't commit to training, I faked injuries.

"It started to take away every aspect of my life with the hurling and the work, and then it consumed me completely.

"It was like a mental obsession that I had to gamble... I couldn't see anything else involved in life only gambling".

Derek said he attempted to take his own life "on a couple of occasions.

"I didn't want to die, but I didn't want to live if that can make any sense to you".

He said his daily routine was "lying in the bedroom for maybe 23 hours of the day in the bed, in my clothes, depressed.

"I never felt like anyone cared about me... loads of people care, loads of people love [me], but I could never see it because I felt so bad about myself."

'An ongoing process'

Derek then entered the Cuan Mhuire treatment centre in Athy, Co Kildare and said it is an ongoing process.

"This is going to be a process for life - the thing is within recovery it never stops.

"There's no end result in recovery, there's no 'you're cured' - this is an ongoing process to the day I die".

"No matter if you're one week away from a bet or 10 years away from a bet, the reality is you're only 10 seconds away from a bet on an everyday basis.

"If you're not looking after your mental state, if you're not being honest, and you're not living through the programme that's suggested through the Gamblers Anonymous programme - and that's what keeps me well.

"It keeps me in a good frame of mind, it keeps me away from bets - I get up in the morning [and] I speak to people that are in the same, similar circumstances."

"And since I found Gamblers Anonymous, I actually am starting to be happy within myself because I'm sharing my experience, my strength and my hope in recovery, that I can relate to with other people and they relate to me".

He said his message to others is simple: "It's OK not to be OK.

"We create this image with the GAA that we have to be tough men, which we do on the field, but outside the field we are able and allowed to be vulnerable".

Anyone affected by the issues raised in this article can contact Gamblers Anonymous Ireland on 087-748-5878 or Pieta House at 1800-247-247

Main image: Derek Morkan at the Allianz GAA Hurling National League Division 1 Round 1, Cork v Offaly, at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork in February 2010. Picture by: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

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