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Leinster Rugby’s Nick McCarthy ‘contemplated walking away from rugby’ before coming out as gay

"I just didn’t think I could come out while playing rugby."

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Alamy

Leinster Rugby’s Nick McCarthy who has come out as gay says he “contemplated walking away” from the sport because of his sexuality.

The scrum-half, 27, came out on Monday (20 June) after previously telling his teammates in January.

In an interview with Leinster’s Marcus Ó Buachalla Nick said he was “pretty nervous” to come out to his teammates but was “really happy” that he did after struggling.

“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 after speaking to the team’s head coach, Leo Cullen, and Stuart Lancaster Nick felt supported. 

As for why Nick felt he couldn’t come out while still an active player he says, “I suppose because it’s not really ‘a thing’ and that he probably “didn’t want to believe or accept myself either.”

Nick adds. “I needed to accept being gay myself before I could address it with others.”

However, his experience since coming out has been “entirely positive”.

“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.”

Of the moment he told his teammates Nick recalls “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.”

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A post shared by Nick McCarthy (@nickmccarthy1)

Nick, who feels happier in himself, reveals he was inspired to come out by people such as Josh Cavallo and Carl Nassib, as well as his Leinster teammate, Jack Dunne, who spoke publicly about being bisexual last year. 

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

He continues, “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.

“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.”

He also says, “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.”

Nick’s head coach, Leo Cullen is among those celebrating the news, hailing Nick as a “brilliant individual” adding, “To be at your best, you need to be yourself and we’re happy that Nick can do that now.”

The Attitude July/August issue is out now.