Sunday 16 June 2019

Brave move, but has anything really changed?

How far have we really come in accepting homosexuality? It's a question that flew across the airwaves this week, in the wake of Cork hurler Donal Og Cusack coming out in his autobiography.

This really is a big deal in socio-cultural terms, not just in Ireland but globally. Very few top athletes around the world have been openly gay, despite society's supposedly greater tolerance. Only footballer Justin Fashanu, diver Greg Louganis and tennis icon Martina Navratilova come to mind without recourse to Google.

Sport is a macho, conformist milieu, the omnipresent imperative a rigid heterosexuality. This is why so few sportspeople are openly gay, and why Donal Og's admission was such a seismic moment.

On The Tubridy Show (RTE Radio 1) Ryan discussed the matter with former GAA president Sean Kelly. On Newstalk's Lunchtime, Jonathan Healy spoke to Cork hurling legend Tomas Mulcahy and Brian Finnegan, editor of Gay Community News.

Kelly and Mulcahy both insisted that, for the majority of GAA followers, Cusack's sexuality is far less important than his prowess as a goalkeeper. If you're from Cork, you'll love him as a great player; if you're from a rival county, you'll want to see his team lose. That's about the measure of it, and that is very encouraging.

Of course, they also worried he would come in for serious harassment from opposition fans next year, but the overall feeling was a sort of benign indifference. Indeed Sean Kelly said he had been told of Cusack's homosexuality a few years back, but didn't pay it any mind one way or the other.

However Tubridy revealed the programme had received many, many texts of an abusive nature; so much so, he couldn't read most of them out. While it must be acknowledged that the kind of people who text radio stations by definition feel strongly about an issue, that is not so encouraging.

We'll leave the last word to Brian Finnegan, on how positive Cusack's actions were in dismantling prejudice and ignorance. Hear, hear.

"As a fan of one of those rival counties, I want Donal Og to lose every game next year -- but I have huge respect for his courage."

dmcmanus@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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