Cora Staunton: 'I'm not gay....I'd like to get married one day and have children'
In exclusive extracts from her new autobiography, Cora Staunton gives her take on rumours about her sexuality affected her life
I can pinpoint the night when things changed for me and I became a little more introverted and aware that I was a public figure, open to criticism.
Since then I've become more wary of people and selective in whom I trust. It was in the autumn of 2000 when we were celebrating our second All-Ireland win.
On the fifth day of the session, we went to stay in the Teach Iorrais Hotel in Geesala near Belmullet. It was just the team in the middle of nowhere and I loved that. After a mad week we were united again, back inside our own bubble, reminiscing, and not an Up and Down in sight.
As the evening went on, I was at the bar, chatting to a friend, when some fella with a few jars in him came towards us.
I half turned and gave him a small wave, knowing that he was too full to the gills to be entertained. He persisted. "Hey, Cora! Hey, Cora!"
I turned around again, and this time I gave him a nod and a wave. This guy took umbrage and started to lay into me. Initially I ignored it, but he suddenly turned aggressive.
"Ah, you're only a selfish auld bitch anyways!" he spat. "You're too big for your boots now, aren't ya? Who the f**k do you think you are?"
And on and on it went. Insult after insult. You have to remember, I was just 18 years of age at the time and I was being verbally abused in public, across a bar in a busy hotel. For what?
Just sitting and not entertaining some fella who wouldn't even remember me the next day? Finbar and Jonathan were quick to read the situation and ushered him into the foyer.
That moment stuck with me. I know he had drink taken, but it wouldn't be the last time something like that happened during my career. And God forbid I stood up to someone who spoke to me like that and told them what I really thought, because then they would be justified in thinking I was a bitch.
After that I distanced myself in social gatherings. That's not to say I sat in the corner on my own, not having the craic. I'd have been in the middle of it, but with my own gang. When it's not your own gang, all people see is Cora the footballer. They don't see an individual, and that's hard to deal with.
To add to that, there were also rumours about my sexuality. I'm not gay, but it was easier for people to just make the assumption. I learned quickly that I couldn't control what they thought or said about me. It was wasted energy. Once my family and friends knew the real me, that's all that mattered. That said, there were times when those rumours got into my psyche. I have really good friends who are gay, and looking back, my actions were unfair to them because of their sexuality.
I was afraid to socialise with them in a gay pub or a nightclub for fear that someone would automatically make an assumption about me. It was selfish, I know, but it's the truth.
If I'm being completely honest, homosexuality was something I found hard to understand when I was younger. I came from a small rural community and I didn't know anyone who was gay. But then, you grow up, you evolve, and your ignorance goes away. I'm no longer worried about what people might assume.
I'd like to meet a fella some day, get married and have children. I'd love that, but it's not the end of the world if I don't. I have a great life as it is.