Irish Examiner – Addiction a live GAA issue, warns psychologist

A sports psychologist who deals with GAA players who have alcohol addiction problems has disclosed that the youngest person she is dealing with is just 15.

Caroline Currid, who has worked with several hurling and football teams around the country, said teenagers can have enormous difficulty dealing with peer pressure. Currid, who was addressing a conference in Sligo on alcohol and substance abuse, said she was dealing with a 15-year old inter-county hurler who had a serious alcohol problem.

“The youngest person I am dealing with at the minute is 15 years of age,” she said.
“He is a young guy, a prominent inter-county hurler coming up through the ranks but at the minute he is suffering big time with alcohol problems.

“For him it was peer pressure. A lot of his peers are not into sport and a lot are into going at the weekend at 15 years of age. They feel he should be with them and he should be helping them enjoy themselves.

“His goal is to be an inter-county senior hurler but yet he feels the pressure they are putting on him is driving him down that road.

“For young people to be able to say ‘no’ is absolutely massive.”

She was addressing an event in Sligo entitled ‘A Sporting Chance: tackling life’s challenge with the GAA’, which included an address by GAA president Christy Cooney and a number of others. Currid said while a lot of senior players do not drink, young players and teenagers can struggle to deal with peer pressure and other influences.

“It comes down to confidence. The young person I am dealing with feels he can’t say ‘no’, that he will be regarded as odd and not cool, not one of the gang.

“He wants to be a senior hurler but felt it is more important to be one of the gang.

“I spoke to a lot of inter-county hurlers and footballers prior to this event and a lot of inter-county hurlers and footballers don’t drink, it’s because they want to get the best out of themselves.

“But peer pressure is massive, particularly for young people.”

Christy Cooney said men needed to be encouraged to speak more openly about issues and they needed to address why people turn to gambling or alcohol.

The event was organised by former Leitrim footballer Colin Regan, who is the national coordinator of the GAA’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) programme, and Sligo captain Charlie Harrison, who is also his county’s games promotion officer.

Sligo footballer Eamon O’Hara, the country’s longest serving inter-county footballer who is bidding for his 19th championship season next year, told the audience he had come under pressure as a teenager to drink but had remained a teetotaller.

“It didn’t bother me being different. I just said no, it was a decision I made. But the way things have gone, the way society has gone, drink seems to be a huge issue for underage kids.

“In Sligo we are losing a lot of kids due to excessive drinking. Some talented footballers are just not getting the best out of themselves.

“We are not here to try and stamp out drinking completely, it is about educating them that they understand that drinking is very good and is well accepted as long as it is done in moderation. But they know, to be potential footballers or soccer players or whatever, that drinking excessively; you won’t live up to your potential.”

Source: Irish Examiner – 08/09/11

Journalist: John Fallon