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Leinster scrum-half Nick McCarthy comes out as gay

‘I contemplated walking away from rugby,’ McCarthy said.

Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

LEINSTER SCRUMHALF NICK McCarthy has spoken publicly for the first time about his sexuality, admitting he contemplated retiring from rugby instead of coming out as gay.

Speaking to the province’s website, McCarthy said he met with Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster back in November before telling his fellow players earlier this year. 

“I came out to my teammates in January and I was obviously pretty nervous about doing so, but I’m really happy that I did it,” said McCarthy.

“I struggled with coming out for a while and it was starting to impact on me and my happiness so it was the right decision.

“It affected me so much that I agonised over my future and contemplated walking away from rugby altogether because I just didn’t think I could come out while playing rugby.

“But, I spoke to Leo (Cullen) and Stuart (Lancaster) last November and the support that I got from them straight away was unbelievable. They helped and guided me over the months that followed so that I felt more comfortable to come out to the group.”

The 27-year-old, who returned to Leinster last summer following two years with Munster, said the dressing room’s response was overwhelmingly positive. 

“It’s not common for a male athlete to come out in sport, nevermind professional rugby, and it’s probably something that I didn’t want to believe or accept myself either.

“I needed to accept being gay myself before I could address it with others. I have great friends in rugby but I didn’t know how they would take it.

“My experience, since coming out though has been entirely positive. I have realised that anyone who cares about you, just wants you to be happy. Around this time last year I started talking to my close friends, and they were very supportive.

“Those conversations continued as I became more comfortable and accepting of myself. In many other professions you may not feel the need to discuss your sexuality. But I felt I wasn’t being true to myself.

“Leinster Rugby is built on ‘brotherhood’ and it’s important that we can be open and honest with each other. We spend so much time together, and I now feel very comfortable in this environment being myself.

“Everyone was happy that I could tell them and they could be there for me. Some felt sorry that I couldn’t discuss it sooner but again, I had to get to that point myself. My friends have been unbelievable in helping me to accept that I am gay and to help me embrace that part of my life now.

“I’m lucky to have grown up in a loving environment. My parents, my sister, grandparents and wider family, are totally accepting of me and I’m very thankful for their support.

“I only made a quick announcement. But I just remember the room erupting! They were all delighted for me and it was immediately a weight off my shoulders.

“I felt they understood my situation. It’s hard to perform at your best when you are carrying something, anything, and that’s the same for all the lads.”

nick-mccarthy Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

McCarthy explained he drew inspiration from other athletes. 

I’m a private person so I was unsure about coming out publicly. But looking at Carl Nassib (American Football player) or Josh Cavallo (Australian soccer player) coming out and Jack Dunne here in Leinster and how he spoke publicly last year about his bisexuality, has helped me a lot.

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“I’ve had good conversations with each of them and they’ve been hugely encouraging.

“In turn, I feel if I can now help others come out in professional sport or in their everyday lives and make being gay more normal and not a thing to be worried about, then that is a positive.

“I’m so much happier than I was a few months ago and I’m optimistic for the future. If one other person, one other kid, keeps playing their sport because they see a Leinster Rugby player has come out and is accepted, that would be a great outcome.

“I’d love people to see, from my experience, that coming out has been really positive, and the biggest hurdle may be in your own head.

“Surround yourself with good people, because anyone that cares for you, wants the best for you. Your sexuality is just a part of who you are, and life is so much better when you can be yourself.”

In a statement released by Leinster Rugby, head coach Leo Cullen and captain Johnny Sexton praised McCarthy as a role model.

“I’ve known Nick since his time in the Academy so to hear him talk to us so openly about his struggles has been tough but we are now just delighted for Nick and that he can be himself,” said Sexton.

“We talk about looking after our brothers a lot in here and the last few months has been about that, looking out for Nick. And that will continue.

“By speaking openly about his sexuality, Nick will be a role model for others and we couldn’t be prouder of him.”

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