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Silverbridge Pride flag shows it is 'a place for all'

Diarmuid Pepper

A south Armagh GAA club is proving that “there's a place for us all” in the organisation by flying the Pride flag.

June is Pride Month, and Silverbridge GFC said it's “better late than never” as it proudly displayed a Pride flag alongside its club and county colours.

For Silverbridge's Ryan McKeown, it's a testament to one of the GAA's mottos: Tá áit dúinn uilig, there's a place for us all.

Ryan played Gaelic football for the south Armagh club until he was 14, but describes himself as having a “very bitter sweet relationship with the GAA”.

He gave up Gaelic football after he was “teased and picked on” because he was also an Irish dancer.

However, the move to Irish dancing proved successful for Ryan and he picked up an All-Ireland medal, “one of the few All-Ireland medals that have ever been brought back to Silverbridge”, he notes.

While a recent Gaelic Players Association survey found 99 per cent of inter-county GAA players would be supportive of a team-mate if they came out as LGBTQ +, only 10 per cent of male players are aware of a LGBTQ+ member in their playing squad.

Indeed, Ryan says “it's not easy being gay in sport”, but adds that “what is so good about the GAA is that it's not all about the football.”

“One of the mottos of the GAA is ‘tá áit dúinn uilig', which is Irish for ‘there's a place for us all,'” explains Ryan.

“And I remember the Silverbridge chair Jarlath Burns telling me that same thing at the Silverbridge ‘jigs and reels fundraiser' in 2019.

“He said ‘this is what it's all about; people in our club are so talented and the football place just isn't the place where everyone gets to show it off.'”

So while Ryan concedes that there may not be a place for him on the Silverbridge men's senior football team, he adds: “I know there's a place for me, there's a place for us all, in this club and I feel right at home here in Silverbridge club.”

The flying of the Pride flag outside of a GAA club “is something so small but something that makes such a difference”, says Ryan.

“And I think every club should take a leaf out of Silverbridge's book”, he adds, “because somewhere out there, is a footballer who is too scared to be themselves because of what other people might think.”

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