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‘Rainbow Laces is a great initiative… It’s something the GAA should be doing’ – Darran O’Sullivan

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Former Kerry footballer Darran O’Sullivan believes the GAA should follow the Premier League’s lead by taking part in the Rainbow Laces campaign.

A number of sporting bodies in the UK recently participated in Rainbow Laces, an initiative set up in 2013 to help create more LGBT-inclusive sports environments.

As part of the campaign, Premier League players sported rainbow-coloured laces and captain’s armbands, rainbow-coloured welcome mats were rolled out outside stadia and Sky Sports incorporated rainbow-coloured graphics into their live football programming and highlights shows.

The increased visibility appears to be having an effect. A poll carried out by Stonewall, the UK-based equality charity behind Rainbow Laces, shows that 65% of the British public now believe that it’s important for anti-LGBT language to be challenged at live sporting events, a 7% increase on last year.

However, Stonewall also revealed that 43% of LGBT people still feel that sporting events are not welcoming environments for them.

Speaking exclusively to the Killarney Advertiser, O’Sullivan, who played for Kerry from 2005 until 2018, praised the campaign and encouraged the GAA to follow suit.

“I think Rainbow Laces is a great initiative and it is something the GAA should be doing,” he said.

“The GAA is extremely powerful and it's a very open, welcoming place at the moment. You have players who didn’t grow up in Ireland, people from totally different backgrounds, who are all welcomed. It’s very inclusive, and that’s the way it should be.

“[Rainbow Laces] is a great way of encouraging players to be themselves. You have more and more players now who are not just going along with what you’d expect GAA players to be. Like other sports, the GAA has to move with the times as well and make sure that it’s more open, that you don’t have to be a stereotype to be a GAA player; you can be any type of person.

“I think the GAA needs to move along, and they are quite open to these things.

"An initiative like the Rainbow Laces would go a long way. It would be a good thing for the GAA to do, even if it was only for one weekend a year.”

When contacted by the Killarney Advertiser, Stonewall said that they would like to see Rainbow Laces in the GAA.

"The whole campaign is about inclusion for LGBT people across all sport, so we absolutely have aspirations to go as far and wide as possible," a spokesperson said. "We would definitely support teams and clubs in Ireland to get involved if they’re interested."

CHANGES

O'Sullivan, a four-time All-Ireland-winner and former Kerry captain, says he doesn’t recall homophobic language or anti-LGBT discourse ever being prevalent in a Kerry dressing room, although he does acknowledge that times, and attitudes, have changed.

“Maybe it was something that I just wasn’t picking up on. It was never really a topic in our dressing room.

“The one thing I will say is that over the years I think fellas have become more sensitive to other people’s feelings and are more aware of other people than we would have been at the start [of his career].

“I think that comes with growing and having a bit more of an education around mental health. As the years have gone on and younger players – I suppose the more modern day players – have come in, fellas are a bit more aware that it’s not just players beside you, it’s people. If a fella is feeling a bit off, they take note of these things and they’re more open about talking.”

Cork hurler Dónal Óg Cusack came out in 2009 but since his retirement in 2013, the GAA has had no other openly gay male players. Have things progressed enough for a gay Kerry player, if one existed now or in the future, to come out?

“I don’t think there would be any problem with a player coming out in the GAA,” the Glenbeigh-Glencar clubman said.

“I think his teammates would be the first to stand around him and make sure he knows that he’s still the same person and nothing has changed."

"I think [in the dressing room] is where he’d get the most support. They’re the guys he spends four or five days a week with. They’re the guys who probably know him better than anyone else.

“That would end up being his safe place.

“The GAA and Irish people in general, especially the younger generation, are a lot more open, a lot more understanding. A GAA dressing room would be a safe place for someone, somewhere they could feel comfortable to be themselves.

“At the moment I think it would nearly be easier for a player at intercounty level to come out than at club level. At club level, it might be a bit tougher because someone might say something off the bat, in anger or in jest, and not think about the consequences.

“At intercounty level with the media attention that’s on it and the professionalism of players at the moment, I think it would be a fairly safe place.”

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‘There’s definitely more in me’ – Leahy feeling positive after close-run thing at nationals

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Kerry woman Sarah Leahy chats to Adam Moynihan about her recent outing at the National Outdoor Championships in Dublin. The Killarney Valley AC sprinter competed with the best of the best, including new Irish record holder Rhasidat Adeleke.

Adam Moynihan: You recently took part in the 100m final at the National Championships. How was that experience for you?

Sarah Leahy: Atmosphere-wise it was absolutely amazing. Just very good energy all around. And coming out for the final, obviously, Rhasidat brought a massive crowd. So that was really cool to be a part of because I don’t think there’s ever been a crowd that big at nationals before. To be in the final where so many people were there to watch her was obviously amazing.

What about the race itself?

I came fifth and ran a time of 11.74. On the day, with the whole excitement of it all, I was actually really happy with that. I was a bit disappointed but I was like, it’s a great day overall. I ran well, didn’t get a medal but I was really close. I didn’t get the perfect start like I did in the heat. So I was a little bit behind, but I just managed to come fifth in the end.

A week on, the excitement has kind of worn off, and I think there’s definitely a lot more in me. I could’ve pipped the third place But yeah, it is what it is. It was still good. I’m happy with it.

It was very tight for third place, wasn’t it?

Yeah, it was two-or-three-hundredths of a second and it was a blanket finish for four of us. So it was close but no cigar. Not this time. I came fifth last year as well, so I was hoping for at least fourth this year, but it ended up being the same. At least it wasn’t sixth! And there’s definitely more in me as well. Time-wise I’m just waiting for it to kind of happen a little bit. I believe it will. It was amazing to be in a race where a national record was broken.

And the standard was obviously very high across the board. All the big names were there.

It was a very high standard, yeah. Going in we kind of knew that first and second were gone (to Adeleke and Sarah Lavin). Everyone else was battling for that third medal and only one person could get it in the end. (Mollie O’Reilly got the bronze.) We were all close.

But overall I was super grateful to be in the mix, especially in a race that was that big. It’s one that will go down in history. It was a massive weekend and it was very enjoyable.

Rhasidat is a massive superstar now. What’s it like to run alongside her?

Rhasidat is a great athlete and a very nice girl. As you can see in interviews, she’s very humble. So to compete next to her, to literally be running in the lane right beside her, was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more from the day in that respect. I thought she might have ran sub-11 because she did it before but she still got a national record. To be part of that race was a big deal for me.

Athletics in Ireland seems to be in a good place, particularly after the success the Irish team had in the recent European Championships in Rome. Does it feel like the sport is getting more attention and more recognition these days?

Oh 100%. Support for athletics has grown hugely in the last few years and I think it’ll continue to grow, especially with the success that Ireland had at the European Championships. I think the Olympics this year is going to drive that on even more because we have such great athletes going. The support is growing and rightfully so. The athletes are really getting the recognition they deserve. I think the future is very exciting for athletics in Ireland.

What about your own career? What’s next for you?

I have one last race of the season left, which is at the AAI Games on Sunday in Dublin. I’m hoping to just get a good run out, a good time, and execute the race well. Training will continue until the end of July, I’ll get a month off, and then we’re back training for indoors next year. I love indoors. I think I excel at that. There’s European Indoors and World Indoors next year, so to qualify for them would be a huge, huge goal.

As for outdoors, I’d like to get on the Irish relay team, but I’ll be focussing on indoors first. It should be a good year.

Are you enjoying it?

Yeah, I’m really enjoying it. I think sometimes you might put too much pressure on yourself and try to get a PB in every race but this year I’ve really learned that I’ve done the training, so it will happen when it happens. Just go out and run and let your body do its thing. And I’m actually really enjoying competing this year. I know I’m going to continue enjoying it for the next few years.

With the surrounding support of the club and coaches and my training group, it’s all going really well for me at the moment. I have no complaints at all. I’m very lucky.

Thanks for your time, Sarah, and all the best for the rest of the season.

Thank you very much, Adam. It was lovely talking to you.

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Kingdom ladies hoping for repeat performance against Royals

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LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final

Kerry v Meath

Saturday 5.15pm

Austin Stack Park

Live on TG4

Just like they did in 2023, the Kerry ladies will take on Meath in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Tralee this weekend and a repeat of the result they earned that wintry day 12 months ago will do just fine.

Last year’s encounter at Stack Park was a classic game of two halves as the home team ran up a 10-point lead with the unseasonable elements at their collective back.

Meath, who at the time were on the hunt for their third All-Ireland in a row, fought back admirably in the second period but the Kerry women held firm and won by four (2-8 to 0-10) after an emotionally charged final quarter.

Síofra O’Shea was Kerry’s top scorer on the day with 1-1 and her return from injury in recent weeks is a major boost to Darragh Long and Declan Quill’s squad.

The Kingdom made light work of Meath when the sides met in the league in March as Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh kicked 0-8 in a 1-15 to 0-5 victory. Shane McCormack’s charges subsequently lost to Dublin in the Leinster final by 18 points before finishing second to Armagh in the All-Ireland group stage.

Marion Farrelly, Emma Duggan and Meadhbh Byrne caught the eye in their recent win over Tipperary, combining for 2-11 of the team’s total of 2-15.

Former Player of the Year Vikki Wall could be in line for a dramatic comeback after a spell with the Ireland Rugby Sevens team.

As for Kerry, they should arrive at the last eight in decent spirits having put in their best display of the season so far against Waterford three weeks ago. The Munster champions were excellent and eventually ran out 4-13 to 0-9 winners with skilful forward Hannah O’Donoghue (1-3) and all-action half back Aishling O’Connell (0-2) particularly impressive.

Meath are a capable opponent on their day, though, so another professional performance will be required if Kerry want to keep their All-Ireland dream alive.

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