It was the mid 1980s. I was about 12 or 13. We headed off one summer’s evening to the races in Roscommon, where my aunt and uncle had a horse running called New Inn Express. I brought a fiver with me to back him and he won at a price of 10/1. I collected £55 (less tax) from the bookmaker. I remember a man remarking: “That’s a fair whack of money for a gasún.” It sure was. I was beside myself with excitement, not only winning the money but being in the parade ring to greet the winning horse. I pushed the winnings deep in my pocket and couldn’t wait to bring it back to show Granny. It never dawned on me to repeat the thrill in any of the remaining races. Thank God for that.
I received a Christmas present of Tyrone footballer Cathal McCarron’s book 'Out of Control'. It is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read. He was/is a gambling addict. And as we know every gambling addiction begins with one small bet. His life was one of harrowing chaos. He broke into neighbours’ houses to steal money. He robbed from his father, his mother, his girlfriend, his boss.