“Come What May”
When Justin Fashanu revealed his sexuality to the press in 1990, there was an overwhelmingly negative reaction in the press and from his teammates; this in part led to his eventual suicide. However in the last twenty years there has been an enormous change in attitude towards homosexuality and the tolerance of homophobia has lowered. While there has not been another openly gay footballer playing in a major league, it is possible to learn from high profile gay sporting figures. One of these figures is Donal Óg Cusack, who plays hurling with the Gaelic Athletic Association, a traditionally conservative organisation.
Donal Óg Cusack has won three All-Ireland medals, two All Star awards and five Munster titles playing for Cork Hurling team. He is also the first high profile, openly gay player in the GAA.
In his autobiography, Come What May, Cusack says “I get more out of men. I just do. Always have. I know I am different but just in this way. Whatever you may feel about me or who I am, I’ve always been at peace with it,”
Cusack claims he never lets any remarks made in the terraces bother him but they did cause his mother to stop attending games. He explains that, “I hate what it does to those around me, especially when it doesn’t hurt me at all.”
Cusack says his teammates were a source of comfort and confidence when he came out. After telling his old friend and then captain Seán Óg Ó hAilpín he says their relationship has changed for the better. He describes O hAilpín as being unbelievable after he told him and saying O hAilpín was “…content that I’d told him, happy to open up to me about his own life and about things that I had never even known about him. We had a long conversation, about two hours long because it was a deep and complex conversation from both sides and we came out of it like brothers”.
While Cusack has faced some problems since his sexuality became public, on a whole he has been supported by his family and teammates. His continuing involvement playing hurling at the highest level possible should provide hope to any gay sporting figure that might wish to acknowledge their sexuality on a public level.