Aisling Maher believes it would be "a really progressive and positive move for the GAA" if an elite male player were to follow Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels in coming out as gay.
During the week, 17-year-old Daniels became the first active male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
"In his interview, I think he made the point that he himself thought he was going to have to stay in the closet until he retired, and then he'd be able to come out after having retired," said Dublin camogie player Maher at the launch of AIG’s Support4Drummo jersey swap fundraiser campaign.
"That in itself is a testament that there must be loads of young players coming up thinking that's not something they can do, and they have to choose one over the other.
"I think it's fantastic that young boys growing up can see somebody like him playing professional sport at a high level, and know that they can be their authentic selves, and be open and honest about who they are."
Maher, who came out several years ago, is a member of the Gaelic Players' Association's LGBTQ+ Working Group. Last month, the GPA released research which found that 99 per cent of inter-county players would be supportive of an LGBTQ+ teammate if they came out. It also found that 45 per cent of inter-county players are already aware of an LGBTQ+ teammate. Though that awareness was significantly higher among female players (69 per cent) compared to males (10 per cent).
"That should be really encouraging for young players coming up," said Maher.
"That would be really helped by being able to see someone in a senior inter-county setup playing at an elite level who was able to be open and honest about that side of themselves.
"Players and individuals have to do things at their pace, and a way that is comfortable to them. Until we see that, we just have to ask ourselves as a playing body, and an association, is there more that we can do that would make them feel comfortable? Hopefully, we can get there."
Along with the data which shows inter-county Gaelic games is an inclusive and welcoming environment, Maher believes education is important. That includes around the type of language which is used in the dressing room.
"If you're somebody who's a younger player in the dressing room, who's conscious of your own sexuality or questioning your own sexuality, then you're going to hone in on every single word that's said or used. Something like that could make you feel very uncomfortable in a setup," she said.
"Education [is important] around actively unlearning those automatic behaviours or traits, that might seem harmless to a straight person, who would otherwise consider themselves an ally. Just education around the impact that could have on somebody who is listening to the words that you're using or the things that are being said would just make younger players feel more accepted."
Maher has been an inter-county camogie player for the bones of a decade. She was in the Dublin set-up for a few years, and also a straight relationship, when she decided to take some time out to go travelling. While away, she came out.
'GAA players give so much of their time and energy to playing'
"When I decided to come back into the set-up, it was a decision I made that if I was going to go back in, I wanted to go in being authentically me, not having to pretend that I wasn't in a relationship that I was in," she explained.
"It definitely was something that was nerve wrecking going back in. We're all human, and we overthink things, and can overplay things in our head sometimes. There wasn't really a huge amount of out gay players with Dublin camogie that time. There was more than was with the male set-up now.
"I was really well received, and all the girls were very supportive of me. Some of them were looking at me, wondering why I was telling them. In a lot of ways, that's a nice reaction to get. I have been very fortunate.
"The stats that the GPA have found, they're definitely echoed in my own experience that really the majority of it is support, and that people are happy when you're happy.
"Inter-county GAA players now, they give so much of their time, life, and energy to playing, and it's such a huge part of your person, if there's any small aspect of that you're trying to hide or trying to keep from the team, then it can accumulate to become a huge load on your shoulders.
"For me, much like anything, I made myself more nervous about it than I ever needed to be. It does make you feel like you can be more authentically you in the set-up, and in turn then focus more on the sport."
Seán Drummond is a former Cuala and Dublin GAA underage player who suffered life-changing injuries in an accident in London after finishing college exams in 2019. AIG Insurance will give over its front of jersey sponsorship to Support4Drummo in prominent upcoming games in each of the four codes. The Sean Drummond Trust will use all donations to help Sean regain as much independence and self-determination as possible. To make a donation visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support4drummo. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Picture credit: Sportsfile