GAA star Donal Og Cusack: Teammates helped me through ordeal of revealing I am gay
Donal Og Cusack has told of the overwhelming support he got from his team-mates when he revealed to them, one by one, that he was gay.
The Cork GAA star said coming out even strengthened his bond with players like captain Sean Og O hAilpin.
Donal Og was relieved at the response from the team, but admitted many of his chats about his sexuality were "draining, hard conversations".
The reactions of the other players are the latest details to emerge from his forthcoming, candid autobiography, Come What May.
Donal Og became the first elite Irish sportsman to reveal he was gay. He was prompted to come out when his sister rang him while he was on holiday in South Africa to tell him of rumours that were circulating back home.
Keen to make sure his parents heard the truth directly from him, he flew home to tell them himself. He has already told of his mother's acceptance of his sexuality and his father's initial difficulty coming to terms with it.
Donal Og said Sean Og O hAilpin sensed there was something wrong on the South African trip and asked to speak to him. The pair had been close friends from the time they met as under-14s in Cork, but Donal Og has revealed their relationship has "never been the same since" the talk that followed.
"We went for a walk and I told him the whole story, stuff that I thought he would have guessed," Donal Og recalled. "He was unbelievable. Content that I'd told him, happy to open up to me about his own life and about things I had never even known about him. We had a long conversation, about two hours long because it was a deep and complex conversation from both sides and we came out of it like brothers."
Donal Og admitted the atmosphere was "awkward" in the hotel he was staying in as he tried to figure out who might already know.
On the flight home, despite nervousness as he spoke to Brian Corcoran, he said he was wrong to have any doubts about his hero.
"To me, he was a god," Donal Og said. "We couldn't have had a better conversation and he said to me the same thing every fella said: 'You know the drill, Ogie, I'm there if you want me'."
The news was "new territory" for many of the players and some were worried at what the revelations might mean for their teammate.
"I'm tough, but there was so much emotion in so many of those conversations, it was wringing me out", he admitted.
"Some of the conversations were earnest. Some emotional. Some make me laugh when I look back."
Soon after he came out to his family and team-mates, he got word that he was being discussed as a possible story at Ireland on Sunday. Then his father called, saying a letter had been handed in at home.
Donal Og went home to open the "ticking time bomb", then prepared for a second round of "coming out talks".
O hAilpin made a speech at the next Cork training session to tell those who had not heard yet. Brian Corcoran sat down beside him and put his hand on his shoulder.
"That was a message to all that maybe they would have seen a bit of weakness in me but Corcoran was behind me anyway," he recalled.