An Irish sporting hero's decision to "out" himself as gay in a new book was hailed as a landmark on Thursday by one the country's leading gay support groups.
Donal Og Cusack, 32, a triple all-Ireland medallist and goalkeeper with the Gaelic Athletic Association's hurling team in the southern county of Cork, reveals his sexual orientation in a new autobiography, "Come What May."
"I get more out of men. Always have. I know I am different but just in this way. Whatever you may feel about me or who I am, I've always been at peace with it," he says in the book, to be published Friday.
His decision was described as "courageous" by David Carroll, national network manager of BeLonG To, a youth project for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people.
"From our experience of working with young people we find it is really positive when people they associate with specific achievements come out," he told AFP, calling the move a "real landmark in Irish culture."
Tom Humphries, chief sports writer with The Irish Times, who assisted Cusack with the book, said the gay disclosure challenges the rest of Ireland more than him.
"As the first prominent sportsperson on this island to come out... he has challenged that boorish machismo that still underpins a lot of Irish society and a lot of GAA life. And he has challenged those of us who by our silence are accomplices in that culture," Humphries wrote in his newspaper.
Hurling is a very fast-moving traditional Irish field sport played by two 15-member teams that claims to have a 2,000 year history. Players use a curved bat made of ash wood called a hurley and a leather ball called a sliothar.
Martin Breheny, GAA writer with the Irish Independent said it is a "seminal moment" in the GAA's 125 year history with Cusack a trail-blazer on a path that everybody knew existed but that remained unexplored, publicly at least.
"Music and drama have felt no such need to hide their gay communities, but for reasons probably linked to the macho image attached to physical endeavour, sport has generally presented its heroes in very straight lines."