Inspired by Josh Cavallo, Irish Pro Rugby Player Comes Out

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday June 21, 2022

Nick McCarthy
Nick McCarthy  (Source:Nick McCarthy/Instagram)

Irish pro rugby player Nick McCarthy, 27, has come out of the closet, citing out Australian soccer star Josh Cavallo and an openly bisexual teammate as inspirations, ESPN reports.

The accomplished rugger, who plays for Leinster, "has 18 caps as an Ireland under-20 player and he captained the side in 2015," ESPN noted, "but said he contemplated quitting professional rugby because of his sexuality."

McCarthy opened up about being a gay pro athlete and the pressures that came with being in the closet in an interview that was posted to the teams' team's website.

McCarthy noted that his has been a gradual process, with his having come out to his teammates months ago, in January. "I was obviously pretty nervous about doing so," he admitted, "but I'm really happy that I did it."

McCarthy went on to disclose that his struggle with the inauthenticity of remaining in the closet "affected me so much that I agonized 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 [coaches] Leo [Cullen] and Stuart [Lancaster] last November and the support that I got from them straight away was unbelievable," McCarthy added. "They helped and guided me over the months that followed so that I felt more comfortable to come out to the group."

Digging down into some of the causes for his reluctance to come out, McCarthy explained, "It's not common for a male athlete to come out in sport, never mind professional rugby, and it's probably something that I didn't want to believe or accept myself either."

Addressing that last point, he added: "I needed to accept being gay myself before I could address it with others."

Moreover, he added, "I have great friends in rugby but I didn't know how they would take it."

Still, he went on to say, he felt a need to embrace authenticity.

"In many other professions you may not feel the need to discuss your sexuality," the scrum-half said. "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," the athlete added. "We spend so much time together, and I now feel very comfortable in this environment being myself."

McCarthy underscored the joy of his experience in freeing himself from the closet, saying, "My experience, since coming out, though, has been entirely positive. I have realized that anyone who cares about you, just wants you to be happy."

When it came to those courageous first steps out of the closet, McCarty disclosed that "he had taken strength from the stories of footballer Josh Cavallo and American footballer Carl Nassib, in addition to his bisexual teammate Jack Dunn," UK newspaper The Guardian detailed.

Cavallo came out last October, becoming the world's only pro soccer player to do so at the time. That changed when Blackpool player Jake Daniels, inspired by Cavallo, came out this past spring.

American pro football player Carl Nassib came out in an Instagram post last summer.

Leinster Team Captain Johnny Sexton spoke to the team's supportive response to McCarthy's coming out, telling the media, "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."

Sexton went on to add: "By speaking openly about his sexuality, Nick will be a role model for others and we couldn't be prouder of him."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.