Nick McCarthy came out publicly while playing for Leinster and has now moved to Chicago Hounds in Major League Rugby. | Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Sending a message to your out gay role model is almost a rite of passage for young sportsmen who are coming to terms with their sexuality in the social media age.

Take professional soccer, for example. In recent years there have been several instances of this type of connection leading to mentorship, with Josh Cavallo revealing how he reached out to Thomas Beattie, and Jake Daniels asking for advice from Matt Morton.

Climbing into someone’s DMs is often a significant step on the journey to busting out of the closet altogether. Even some of the best-known LGBTQ athletes in history have been there — take Ryan O’Callaghan’s message to Outsports’ own Cyd Zeigler on Facebook in 2017, for example…

“Hi Cyd, I would love to chat with you. I played six years in the NFL, retired in 2012, and I have felt the need for the longest time to speak up. I’m finally in a position to do so, and I hope by telling my story it will help others. I look forward to chatting in more detail. – Ryan O’Callaghan.”

Now we’ve learned of another occasion when it happened, again in men’s professional team sports.

Nick McCarthy made headlines in Pride Month 2022 when he worked with his rugby club, Leinster, to share his story.

Then aged 27, the scrum-half said he considered quitting his sport completely rather than continue to struggle through.

Having won the European Rugby Champions Cup in 2018 — the top continental trophy on offer — as well as multiple league titles, McCarthy failed to see how he could marry up being out as gay with being a star athlete who was well-known in Dublin, across Ireland and beyond in the rugby world.

However, he found the courage to take that step and was rewarded with overwhelming support from his teammates, coaches and the fanbase.

He has now moved across the Atlantic to play in Major League Rugby, the USA Rugby sanctioned competition which is expanding to 12 teams for its seventh season, starting in March.

McCarthy has also made his international debut for the USA in the last year (he was born in Michigan before moving to Ireland as a child) and last week, he spoke about his career to date at an event run by the Out in Finance network, held at a local law firm in Chicago.

He described how he started by coming out to his best friend, who reassured him that there would be a path to finding his sense of pride.

As reported by Windy City Times, McCarthy said: “My biggest struggle was with my own self-acceptance. The team probably accepted me more than I accepted myself.”

Back in 2022, when he first spoke in the media about his sexuality, the scrum-half namechecked Carl Nassib as an inspiration.

Nassib had come out via an Instagram post a year earlier, while with the Las Vegas Raiders – he was the first and remains the only active NFL player to have done so.

Carl Nassib came out publicly in June 2021 and went on to have a successful season with the Las Vegas Raiders. | Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Some time late, McCarthy said he sent Nassib a message. “I didn’t think he had even seen the message,” he explained to the event audience in Chicago.

“Within a week, he had set up a Zoom call… I think it’s really important for people to be role models.”

McCarthy is now thriving on and off the field, and taking part in LGBTQ initiatives too, such as amplifying the activation at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in Pride Month 2023.

“Being my authentic, true self makes me a better teammate,” he told attendees. “I’m just a lot nicer to myself.”