Goalkeeper for Cork’s senior hurling team, Donal Og Cusack certainly has a fair share of influence. As a gay man, Og Cusack was in Foyle in Northern Ireland to take part in Foyle Pride, the city’s third annual event celebrating Gay Pride.
Cusack’s proud words during a speech at Foyle Pride have made headlines. As a sports star, Cusack has encountered and endured many adversities both on and off the field. However, he refuses to let his sexuality be his defining factor, and insists that just like everyone else, he is the sum of many parts.
“I'm an out gay man,” said Cusack. “For me that's a small part of the deal. Half a chapter in a lifetime story. But if maybe, out of curiosity, you've come to see me play and can't pick me out because we all wear helmets, I'm the one in front of the loudmouth at the front of the terrace with a megaphone.”
"He'll be singing 'He's gay, he's bent, his ass is up for rent, Donal Og, Donal Og'. People will be staring at me, embarrassed. And I will be looking up the field. Not giving any attention to them.”
While speaking at Foyle Pride - which was first conceived in 2010 by Shá Gillespie - Cusack compared his experiences with his sexuality to that of travelling between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
"I thought of that today as I drove up from Cork because the place names started ringing different bells with me. The villages around home where I grew up, then the places with hurling clubs where I travelled to regularly. The further I travelled, the more people's definition of me changed. Yet with every mile of the journey I remained the same, just me.
"Then as I crossed the border, all the place names suddenly seemed to remind me of the Troubles, and the journey got to be about my own lazy definitions. I got to wonder if gaydar north of the Border comes with more advanced settings than we have down south. If I grew up here and walked into a crowded room like this, would I be saying gay Shinner three o'clock.
"When you go down that road, the whole business of labelling people and defining them and putting them into boxes -- it gets to be almost as comical as it is dangerous . . . And hey presto, once people have something to demonise or something to be scared of -- they don't know it's the poverty of their own lives.
"That's why I never hear what's going on in the terrace behind me. I'm in the privileged position that the people who try to police my life have no power. The guy with the megaphone or the big mouth has paid in to see me and embarrass himself. No matter what happens, I can't be the loser in that situation.
"I came out to be myself -- to be Donal Og Cusack. For 40 or 50 hours a week I'm an electrical engineer of a multi-national company. For a couple of other hours of the week I'm the chairperson for the Gaelic Players' Association. And for far fewer hours of the week, sadly -- even on a good week -- I am in bed with a man,” Og Cusack said, which was met with laughter.
"Like everyone else in this room, I am the sum total of many, many things. That to me is what pride is all about."