TRIPLE All-Ireland winner Donal Og Cusack has said the staunch support of his Cork hurling teammates made all the difference in confirming that he was gay.
In his new autobiography, Cusack also reveals he refused to take the "easier way" of hiding his sexuality for fear of public criticism and the possible reaction of conservative elements in the GAA world.
The goalkeeper said he was never willing to accept it being "easier to go the other way" of having a wife and children despite knowing he was gay.
Instead, Cusack told his Cork teammates the truth -- and was deeply moved by how they rallied to support him.
"I always said: 'Look, if you have a problem with this, I don't mind. And I wouldn't have minded if lads were troubled because I know fellas and I know how we all grew up. (But) Nobody disappointed me," he said.
The Cork goalkeeper said he received huge support from the Rebel hurlers, his friends and neighbours as news of his sexual orientation emerged.
"If Ogie is gay I don't give a f*** -- it won't change one bit of what I think about him," midfield star Ben O'Connor said.
Dual-star Brian Corcoran and Sean Og O hAilpin held a special team meeting, and Corcoran made a point of sitting beside Donal Og and placing his hand on the goalie's shoulder in a gesture of solidarity.
"I knew that was a message to all-comers that maybe they would have seen a bit of weakness in me but that Corcoran was behind me anyway," he said.
"And having Corcoran with you was good enough. Whatever about anyone taking me on, they sure as f*** weren't going after both of us. Not Corcoran," he added.
Former Cork captain Sean Og was one of the goalkeeper's oldest friends and was a team-mate on the outstanding 1995 Cork minor side that helped underpin the county's glory years between 1999 and 2005.
But Donal Og said his biggest concern was that his team-mates and friends should hear the story directly from him -- and not from a tabloid newspaper. He acknowledged that he found the support and friendship offered by his Cork teammates and friends helped him get through an ordeal that would have broken lesser men.
He received numerous calls and texts of support -- and members of his Cloyne GAA club repeatedly checked to see if he was okay and if there was anything they could do to support him.
"They (all) stood up and said they were there for me -- the way things were done in the group and the way we do our business never changed. Far from it," he said.
The decision of the Cork hurling star to go public with his sexuality has been warmly welcomed by gay and lesbian groups.
The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network and BelongTo -- the youth group for lesbian, gay, and transgendered people -- said the decision by a major sports star to come out and confirm he was gay was "a marvellous development".
Both groups said youngsters should realise that if they were gay or lesbian they would not be excluded from sports or cultural events in society.