Hurler's gay admission spurs Irish lifestyle debate

Tue Nov 3, 2009 9:44am EST
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By Antonella Ciancio

DUBLIN (Reuters Life!) - One of Ireland's most loved sporting heroes has moved the goalposts on the debate about public attitudes toward homosexuality in the traditionally Catholic country by revealing he is gay.

Irish hurling star Donal Og Cusack's revelation in an autobiography released last month is still reverberating across a country which only legalized homosexuality in 1993 and still outlaws abortion.

The 32-year-old, brought up in a village in the southern county of Cork -- known as Ireland's "rebel" county --- publicly came out in his autobiography "Come What May," which hit the shelves at the end of October.

"I think that his case will make it easier for other young gay people to do the same," said Tom Humphries, a sportswriter for the Irish Times newspaper who assisted Cusack in writing the book published by Penguin Ireland.

Admissions of homosexuality are rare enough in most European team sports, yet the statement by Cusack -- a triple All-Ireland hurler -- was even more shocking for one of the world's oldest field games.

As Cusack remarked, Gaelic sports and the Catholic church have been two of the main bastions of conservative views in Ireland.

"The pecking order has moved around down the years, but they and the government here are all among the most conservative institutions in the world," Cusack told the Sunday Times newspaper.

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) organizes competitions of Ireland's national sports: hurling -- similar to hockey and played with a small ball and a curved wooden stick -- and Gaelic football, a mixture of soccer and rugby.   Continued...