Sportsman's pride speech wins praise
An inspirational speech given by Cork hurler Dónal Óg Cusack in which he speaks openly about his life as a gay sportsman has won widespread praise.
The speech, which was given at the opening of the Foyle Pride Festival in Co Derry on Wednesday evening, saw the hurler recounting what it was like to grow up gay in a small village and how he deals with homophobic abuse from some GAA supporters.
"I come from a small village in east Cork called Cloyne. How do I describe home? Well. If I decide to walk to the shop and back that’s pretty much the gay pride parade done for the year," he said.
In 2009, the three-time All-Ireland-winning goalkeeper became the first high-profile Irish sportsman to reveal he was gay.
In his speech he described how it was telling his teammates he was gay and how he had gained so much from coming out publicly.
"When I did come out to them (his teammates) we had lots of deep conversations. And their loyalty to me then and since then has been one of the most moving and meaningful things in my life. It’s been a great positive. So have all the encounters with young people thinking about coming out. All the meetings with people who took a bit of encouragement in taking big steps in their own lives."
He added: "When I came out a few years ago I wasn’t making any big statement about myself I was following up on a promise I made to myself when I was younger. I was at a gay club in cork and somebody recognised me as a hurler. I pretended not to be who I was and I felt sick afterwards. I promised I’d never pretend to be something that I wasn’t."
Cusack also discussed how he deals with homophobia both on and off the pitch.
"If out of curiosity you come to see me play and can’t pick me out because we all wear helmets I’ll be the one just in front of the loudmouth on the terrace with the megaphone. He’ll be singing he’s gay/he’s bent/his ass is up for rent/ Dónal Óg/Dónal Óg. People around him will be looking embarrassed and I’ll be staring up the field. Not giving a f**k."
He went on to add that while he may be known as a gay man, that is just a small part of who he was.
"I’m not just from Cloyne, not just from Cork, not just a hurler. Not just a gay man. Like everybody in this room I’m the sum total of many, many things and that’s how I want to be judged. That to me is what pride is about," he said.
“What unites us at the end of the day is pride in being who we are, pride in the totality of who we are as people. Pride in the fact that we refuse to just fit the label hung on us by prejudice. We can’t be limited in what we do in life and in law by our choice of who, if anybody, we sleep with or what god, if any, we worship. This city knows that better than anywhere. If we narrow the definition of a person to one aspect of their life, we create a ghetto and a platform for prejudice,” he added.