'My coming out with Ruesha a no-brainer', says captain Katie
When Ireland soccer captain Katie McCabe (24) and her international teammate Ruesha Littlejohn went public on their three-year romance, they were uncertain what the reaction would be.
But there has been "zero backlash" as they try to encourage other members of the LGBTQI+ community to speak about their sexuality as part of Aviva's Pride campaign.
Speaking about their relationship was a "no-brainer" if it helped other people who were struggling, said Katie.
"We wanted to use our platform in a positive way and help the LGBT community. We are role models but we really wanted to become better role models off the pitch as well, and to be able to help people was fantastic for us," she said.
Scottish native Ruesha (29) said there were "only positives" after they came out.
"We weren't really worried or concerned. We are comfortable, we are open, we're out, so we weren't really scared if there was going to be any backlash. There's actually been zero backlash so that's been even better."
Katie, from Dublin's Kilnamanagh, said the reaction had been "very moving".
"Obviously in the last year I've been on the pitch for West Ham and Ireland, so we are in the public eye a bit more and you're receiving DMs on Instagram and stuff from people you don't know. They're telling you their story and how what we did empowered them to come out to their family and friends. That's what the campaign was all about," she said.
"We know we did the right thing."
While they received a positive reaction from fans of women's soccer, they would like to see more male footballers following suit.
A recent survey, Life In Lockdown, found that 93pc of those in the youth LGBTQI+ community were struggling with anxiety, depression and stress during the crisis, compared with 53pc of the general population.
The BeLonG To Youth Services study also found 60pc struggling with loneliness.
Aviva has pledged €50,000 to support the organisation for its Pride campaign this weekend. It will also light up the Aviva Stadium this weekend in the colours of Pride and the public can support LightUp4Pride by shining a light in their homes.