5 November 2009 Edition
More than a game BY MATT TREACY
Being gay in the GAA
DONAL ÓG CUSACK’S admission (if that is the correct term to employ) regarding his being gay has caused a great deal of interest, some of it prurient but much of it sympathetic and focused on the whole issue of GAA players’ sexuality. It has also given rise to a plethora of jokes, some funny, some just abusive but overall the balance of sympathy seems to lie with the Cork man.
It is clear that Cusack felt that it was something he needed to do and would probably have preferred in other circumstances to have maintained a silence on the issue. Anyone who was following the Cork strike earlier in the year would have heard rumours regarding Cusack and the alleged role that comments by certain individuals on his being gay had in poisoning even more the already-fraught personal relationships between key adversaries on both sides.
Cusack is also responding to the abuse he was receiving from supporters of other counties, including one charming Tipp fan who went to the trouble of bringing a megaphone to Semple Stadium the better to lead a chant from directly behind the Cork goal. I suppose in circumstances such as that you are better to confront things rather than let the sleeping dog lie.
I have to admit, however, to misgivings over anyone feeling it necessary to make public pronouncements regarding what they do or do not do in bed and to be honest he might have been better advised not to have gone into so much specific details. There is a fine borderline between honesty and salaciousness and it is one that tabloid journalism, whether of the written or broadcast variety, is expert at breaching. Regaling an audience with what you have done in bed with other people is just inviting trouble. Discretion is the key, Donal Óg.
THERE is also the other aspect of Cusack having been seized upon by gay advocacy groups as a role model, which is fair enough, and an encouragement for other gay sportspeople, but again he needs to be careful not to become the gay hurler, rather than a hurler who just happens to be gay. In fairness, Irish gay activists have not used the incident to initiate a campaign similar to that in Britain to pressurise other gay sportspeople to ‘come out’. One of the saving graces in Irish life is perhaps being the general acceptance that one’s private business ought to remain just that unless one chooses otherwise.
There are doubtless other gay inter-county players, just as there are many gay people playing hurling, football and camogie at all levels around the country. As with any other group of people who you get to know well, you will often know about other aspects of their lives, including whether or not they are gay or married or separated or whatever, just through ordinary contact and without them necessarily making a speech in the dressing room about it. You accept it as their own business separate from what brings you together with them.
And in general over the years I have found that, whatever the perceptions of machismo in the GAA or any other sport, in the vast majority of cases people don’t make an issue of such things. They generally accept people they play with for what they are and in any event the stark fact of human existence is that most people are too preoccupied with their own lives and their own problems to dwell overmuch on what anyone else might be doing or what problems they might have unless they decide to confide in them.
Indeed, one of the most telling parts of Cusack’s account of informing his team mates is that while he assumed that they might already have guessed or that they might have problems with his being gay that they either didn’t know, or simply accepted it because he was their team mate and friend. The rest – such as the imbecile with the megaphone – don’t really matter because people who don’t like you in the first place are generally not going to alter their perceptions of you no matter what else they might find out about you, good or bad.