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The Dublin Devils (file pic).
The Dublin Devils (file pic).

Ireland's first LGBT+ inclusive club celebrates turning 15

The Dublin Devils have enjoyed good growth since starting out as a casual kickabout.
Dec 1st 2020, 6:45 AM 5,579 2

Updated at 12.01

IRELAND’S FIRST LGBT+ inclusive football club The Dublin Devils are celebrating turning 15.

The team was established in 2005 when an ad was placed in Gay Community News by one of its founding members who was simply looking for a casual kickabout.

Around 10 people showed up for this initial gathering and since then, the club has enjoyed substantial growth, with around 70-75 active members currently. The club say welcome “anyone who loves football – gay, bi, transgender or straight”.

Some members also do advocacy work in a sport that doesn’t always seem especially welcoming to members of the LGBT community, given the well-documented lack of openly gay footballers, among other issues.

The Devils have received some support in their efforts, and are today announcing a sponsorship with Irish Life, which they say “gives us the chance to build on the previous growth the club has experienced and come out of the lockdown with a secure future for our 11-a-side, 6-a-side and social teams.”

The sponsorship has provided funding for two new jerseys (which will be available in their O’Neill’s club shop), with the collar of both acknowledging the year 1993, when homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland.

They also have an annual friendly with a Shelbourne Legends team in the run up to Pride Week and plan to send two teams to the Euro Gay Games in Copenhagen next July.

John Coary, the club’s treasurer, joined two and a half years ago.

“When I came out, I was looking to normalise it in my head and it’s been absolutely brilliant for that,” he says of joining The Devils.

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“You have lads who are new and just joined — we got a good pickup in the last year or two — but also have lads who are there since day one.

“We offer competitive 11-a-side football but we also offer social six-a-sides. We tend to have a broad age and ability range as well. So it’s good to give lads that access to sport that they might not already have.”

As they continue to grow, the Devils are looking to hire a full-time coach, in addition to building ties with the Football Association of Ireland.

“In the past, [the FAI] obviously had the rainbow colours on the senior [Irish] jerseys. But at the grassroots level, we’d love to see a bit more engagement with them. You obviously have visibility at the senior team level and that’s great, but you really are going to make a difference at the grassroots level.

We’ve got lads in our club who are really good footballers. They may have stopped playing for other clubs, because they didn’t want to come out. We offer that ability to keep playing football at a good level.

“So the more we get involved with the FAI and coaching opportunities and things like that, the more we can offer in terms of a high standard of football.

“They do a lot of work with women’s football and promoting diversity in football as well. So this would be one of the pillars of that strategy. We’d definitely love to see it included and highlighted. It would be good for us as a club and for the sport in general as well.”

The lack of openly gay footballers in the Premier League and other elite competitions has been well documented, and Coary believes improving the situation at grassroots level can help rectify this issue in the long run.

I think the grassroots is more important than having a highly publicised player coming out. It’s really making sure that lads are comfortable in a team, progressing football to an environment where they feel like they can come out, because the reality is you’re going to have someone go up the ranks and be a gay footballer, and they won’t have had a coming-out experience.

“The FA in the UK have done a lot of great work at grassroots level, and you hope that in the next couple of years, that will bear fruit in the Premier League or wherever it may be.”

While the Dublin Devils were the original trailblazers, there are now other LGBT+ inclusive teams. One of the Devils’ founders moved down south and set up the Cork Rebels. More recently, two others teams, Belfast Blaze FC and Teach Solais in Galway, have also been established. And so gradually, the positive changes made across Irish society in recent years are being reflected on the football pitch.

You can find out more about The Dublin Devils by visiting their official website here.

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Paul Fennessy

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