This year has been a challenging one in many ways, but if sport has taught us anything, it’s that hurdles are meant to be jumped over. After Covid-19 caused significant disruption to the livelihoods of sportspeople around the globe in 2020, this year saw competitions, fans, and teams emphatically return to their preferred arenas. Ireland’s LGBTQ+ athletes were among those to come back with a bang, and below is a list of the most memorable queer sporting highlights of 2021.
Harrington wins gold
The rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics featured more out LGBTQ+ athletes than ever before, with around 157 of those competing falling under the rainbow spectrum. Among them were four known queer Irish athletes: boxers Kellie Harrington and Michaela Walsh, marathoner Aoife Cooke, and Taekwondo fighter Jack Woolley.
While all did the country extremely proud, one particular Team Ireland member achieved outstanding success at the games. Boxer Kellie Harrington took home a coveted gold medal after beating reigning world champion, Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira, in the lightweight final.
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Record-breaking year for the Ireland Women’s National Team
All in all, it was an incredible year for the Ireland Women’s National Team. From achieving an equal pay agreement with the men’s team, to landing their biggest sponsorship ever with Sky Ireland, and recording the highest number of ticket sales for an Ireland women’s game, it has certainly been a year to remember. To top things off, with their last fixture of 2021, they beat Georgia 11-0 at home in a World Cup Qualifier, breaking the record for the biggest ever win by an Ireland football team.
There is a whole host of LGBTQ+ role models among the squad, no more so than Katie McCabe who captained the side all year, and was instrumental in their success on and off the pitch.
FULL TIME | ?? 11-0 ??
A record-breaking night for the WNT ⭐️
— FAIreland ⚽️?? (@FAIreland) November 30, 2021
Jack Dunne’s historic coming out
Leinster rugby player Jack Dunne made history in June after coming out as bisexual on the BBC LGBT Sports Podcast. Dunne is now the first and only publicly queer professional rugby player employed by the IRFU, and he revealed that he has actually been out to teammates, friends and family members for around five years. In an interview with GCN, he stated: “I think if I was 15 years-old again, I really would appreciate it if there was someone who played rugby that I could look up to.”
— Jack Dunne? (@Dunners98) June 26, 2021
Dunlevy and McCrystal dominate at Paralympics
Similar to the Olympics, the Paralympics also saw a record number of queer athletes competing. One of which was Team Ireland’s Katie-George Dunlevy, who raced alongside her pilot Eve McCrystal. The dazzling duo bagged three medals in a week at the Tokyo Games, winning gold in the B tandem time trial and the tandem road race, and earning silver in the individual pursuit event. This was the pair’s most successful Paralympic Games to date, having been consistently among the world’s best for years.
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Cork Hellhounds are ratified by IRFU
Cork Hellhounds RFC carved their name into the history books following their ratification by the IRFU in June. The LGBTQ+ inclusive team was formed in 2020 but became officially recognised in 2021, making them the Rebel County’s first queer rugby club, and just the third of its kind on the island of Ireland alongside the Emerald Warriors and the Belfast Azlans. It also came in a year where International Gay Rugby marked its 20 year anniversary, with celebrations spearheaded by Ireland’s own Darren ‘Morro’ Morrin.
University of Limerick launch Pride jersey
To kickstart a new GAA season in September, the University of Limerick launched their latest kit featuring the Pride colours on the cuff. The jersey, which was created in collaboration with mental health charity, Jigsaw, aims to demonstrate the University’s policy of equality, diversity and inclusion. The design made UL just the second-ever club to include the Pride colours on a GAA jersey, following after Na Gaeil Aeracha.
— University Of Limerick (@UL) September 28, 2021
Sporting Pride and GCN
This list of Ireland’s 2021 LGBTQ+ sporting highlights would not be complete without a shameless plug, coming in the form of our In and Out partnership with Sporting Pride. Across the year we hosted 10 sporting-specific digital events featuring the likes of Hannah Tyrrell, Graeme Souness, Katie McCabe, Leah Lyons and so many other inspiring folks.
Topics of discussion ranged from mental health, to body image, to Transgender participation in sport, all with the aim of helping queer people find their place in what can sometimes be quite an intimidating environment. Sport is for all, and these broadcasts aimed to reemphasise that fact.
© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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