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I Get More out of Men

When I was growing up in County Wexford the highest ambition you could have was to play hurling for your county. I remember being taken as a nine year old to watch my older brother play for Wexford in Croke Park in Dublin, which is the national stadium for Gaelic games. Even as I sat there watching my brother’s prowess, I knew that I would never match up to him, that I was a wimp and would always be one. Hurlers and players of Gaelic football were heroes; they were role models and figures of enormous moral authority and seriousness. They put their whole lives into sport without earning a penny. It was done for love, for duty, for patriotism; it was done for your club and county. They were towers of masculine strength. The hurlers especially were lithe and fit. To be a player of Gaelic games was to place you beyond sex; and this meant that they were straight, or were supposed to be. A gay hurler was something that happened only in your dreams. It was pure impossibility.

Imagine the shock then at the appearance of a book, Come What May, by the great Cork hurler Dónal Óg Cusack which announces that he is gay. This has been a rumour for some time, a rumour helped along by a fan of an opposing team who carried a megaphone to a match in which Dónal Óg was playing and waited for a lull when there was silence and then roared into his megaphone: ‘He’s queer. He’s bent. His arse is up for rent. Dónal Óg. Dónal Óg.’

Dónal Óg Cusack is a great sportsman and a great guy. He is determined, stubborn, serious. He has brought zeal and flair to the game of hurling; he has been skilled at taking on managers; he even organised a players’ strike. The fact that he is gay is a big national event in Ireland. When he told his father he was gay, the old man said to him: ‘We need to get you fixed.’ But Dónal Óg is having none of that. The goals he saved may go down in history, but the two chapters of his book where he talks about his sexuality are shots that will ring around the world. He is the first openly gay Irish hurler since Cúchulainn. One of the things he said to explain himself was: ‘I get more out of men.’ This gave me the opening of the villanelle which I then wrote for him, with the help of the poet Maura Dooley. (I wrote the first three stanzas and she wrote the last three.)

Villanelle for Dónal Óg

The hurler said: I get more out of men
I love their buttocks and their hairy chests.
They get me going nine times out of ten.

I knew that I was not a straight guy when
Blokes became stayers and girls stayed guests.
The hurler said: I get more out of men.

As sure as priests intone the word ‘amen’
As sure as young birds fly out from their nests
Guys get me going nine times out of ten.

I could be lonely with a pint of plain
Instead, I seized on what for me is best.
The hurler said: I get more out of men.

When skies are fierce and Sunday’s lost to rain,
When I might feel like letting things go west,
They get me going, nine times out of ten.

It is not pasta, prayer, not coke, not zen,
I’ll own what gives my game mouth-watering zest.
The hurler said: I get more out of men.
They get me going nine times out of ten.

Comments on “I Get More out of Men”

  1. Mark C says:

    now if only a Premiership footballer would finally come out…

  2. Julia Atkins says:

    or a male cricketer….

  3. David says:

    It’s only just dawned on me why Setanta Sport is called Setanta.

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