In a video released on Monday, Cork ladies football legend and SuperValu GAA ambassador, Valerie Mulcahy, opens up about the struggles and unknowns she faced due to her sexuality, as well as the highs of playing for and winning 10 All-Ireland titles with the Rebel county.
“Sport was a great forum to be yourself, but off the pitch, I think I was kind of trying to figure out who I was. When you’re carrying around a secret, it isn’t easy, and it does affect you and it definitely affected me. It kind of ate me up a little bit.”
Despite being known as one of the best female players of all time, Valerie went through her own personal struggle, accepting who she was:
“I think I was about 17 when I started to figure things out a bit. Some people think it might be easy to understand who you are, but it took a bit of time and there wasn’t that many out people around or role models, so it wasn’t as visible then as it is now.
“Coming out to my family, it was probably the biggest worry you’d have that you wouldn’t be accepted, or you’d be disowned, but my parents and family have been very supportive.
“Sport was a great forum to be yourself, but off the pitch, I think I was trying to figure out who I was” – Valerie Mulcahy
“Then I took the opportunity to be involved in the ‘Coming Out of the Curve’ documentary about what it’s like to be gay in Ireland. That went really well, because it was very well received and it was before the marriage equality referendum, so it really helped that case.”
Speaking about the importance of having someone to look up to in your youth, Valerie says: “When I was younger, I lacked that person that I could look up to and see that everything was going to be fine, so if people look up to me and see that it will all be ok, I think that’s a nice thing to be able to do.”
Speaking about how her personal struggles affected her on-pitch performances, Valerie says: “You’re carrying around a secret and it isn’t easy. It definitely affected one performance alright in an All-Ireland in 2006. Probably the only match I never scored in and I was kind of more consumed by what people would think or that my name would be synonymous with being gay and I didn’t want the headlines, I didn’t want the attention – I just wanted to be known as the footballer who played well.”
Hanging up her boots in 2015, the year would not only be a significant one for Valerie the player, but also for Valerie the person. A key driving force behind the Marriage Equality Referendum in 2015, Valerie says:
“It was huge that we get the equal rights and that people would have the same opportunities as their straight brothers and sisters, so it was nice to be involved in that and to speak about my experience.
Speaking about what Cork means to her, what representing her county means to her and what her personal journey means to her, Valerie says:
“Where I’m from means an awful lot to me and being a Cork woman, I’m very proud and humbled to be part of such a great historic Cork team, that I’ve achieved an awful lot and changed history and I think we’ve created a kind of culture and that hasn’t stopped.”
SuperValu and the GAA share many of the same values, but none are more powerful than that sense of resilience and the importance of support from your community. SuperValu’s new GAA sponsorship campaign ‘SuperValu, Proud Sponsors of Where You’re From’, encapsulates those shared values.
‘Where You’re From’ is about being rooted in your community. It’s about your family, friends, neighbours, the people around you providing encouragement and support, when you most need it. The campaign aims to highlight the real resilience of players and managers and how the connections they have in their local community drives their resilience, when they need it the most.