St. Patrick’s Day celebrated all throughout the world is Ireland’s most well-known national holiday and commemorates St. Patrick as the patron saint of Ireland. It’s a day of wearing green to celebrate Irish culture and heritage, especially among Irish communities all over the world. In 2015, Ireland legalized same sex marriage becoming the first full country in the world to legalize it. To honor St. Patrick’s Day, we are recognizing a few of Ireland’s LGBTQ+ athletes.
Katie McCabe is an Irish footballer from Kilnamanagh, Ireland. She was a member of the Women’s National League in its inaugural season playing for Raheny United. With Raheny United she won two league titles and three consecutive FAI Women’s Cups and went on to represent the club at the UEFA Women’s Champions League. In 2015 she signed with Arsenal and was loaned out to play for Glasgow City in 2017. Since her career debut, she has made seven appearances for the Irish national team at the UEFA Women’s Championship, with 2017 being the first time she served as captain of the team. In 2019, McCabe officially came out as lesbian and disclosed her relationship with her fellow teammate Ruesha Littlejohn. The couple have been together for 4 years and spoke out about how women’s soccer has been very accepting. As part of an article for Dublin’s Aviva Pride, she stated,
“As captain of the Ireland team and an Arsenal player, I’ve got a platform to speak up and show support for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community,” said McCabe. “The women’s game is a very accepting community. You love who you love and you’re not really judged. I’m 23 now and have been around that in the game since I was a youngster being part of older teams. Aviva have shown it’s safe to dream and be who you want to be. There’s no better showcase for pride than lighting up the national stadium.”
Joy Neville is a former Irish women’s rugby union athlete and current referee from Limerick, Ireland. Neville represented Ireland at the 2006- and 2010-Women’s Rugby World Cup. She also was the captain of the first Irish national team to defeat France. She was also a member of the first Irish women’s team to win Six Nations, Grand Slam and Triple Crown titles. Since retiring as an athlete, Neville went on to have a successful career as a referee. She referees in women’s rugby, including the Six Nations, Seven Series and Women’s Rugby World Cup. Neville also became the first woman to officiate in a men’s professional European rugby match. In 2015, Neville married her partner Simona Coppola. In response to Ireland legalizing same sex marriage and her own marriage, Neville stated,
“I do feel very proud of where we are now as a country given where we’ve come from,” she says. “I’m very proud of the fact that we’re seen as forward-thinking, that we’ve almost created the path for others. It’s refreshing. I got a lovely, really thoughtful message from the President this week and, to be honest, I’ve been blown away by the support I’ve had.”
Professional squash player and coach, Orla O’Doherty, has been playing squash since childhood where she grew up in Pormarnock, Dublin Ireland. She is an Irish junior national champion and a US masters national champion in squash. At a squash tournament in Minnesota, O’Doherty met fellow athlete, Debbie Brown and the two became fast friends until 2009 they both realized they had fallen in love with each other. O’Doherty and Brown married in 2015 in front of family and friends from both Ireland, Scotland and the other parts of the world. To promote and encourage more women to take up squash, O’Doherty created the group “Women Who Squash” as an all-women’s masters squash team who compete at various local and national Irish squash tournament. In an interview with Irish Times she shared;
“The Masters scene is really starting to blossom, especially for women. It has been there all along for the men. It’s permitted now to do sport as an older woman, it’s not frowned upon, it’s really powerful,” she says.“It’s amazing, collectively we have been inspiring each other.”