Darren Morrin is a tight head prop with Malahide RFC. He has over 50 Energia All-Ireland appearances under his belt. He has been with the club for the best part of two decades and been a key part of their journey through the junior ranks and up into Division 2B of the Energia All-Ireland League.
Rugby and Malahide RFC are very very dear to his heart.
“I think rugby is not just a sport,” he says. “It’s a family environment – every where you go, no matter what club house you go into, you’re going to talk to someone about rugby.
In February 2022, Darren sat down in his own club house on Estuary Road in North Dublin to chat to Irish Rugby TV about elements of his life and where his sexual identity fit into his playing career to date as a senior player in Ireland’s premier club competition.
“I would identify myself as an openly gay male,” he told us. “I’ve been openly gay for many years now.”
Darren is not the only openly gay player in the All-Ireland League, but as he says himself:
“I think for me to do this interview shows that we’re not quite there yet. Especially within the men’s AIL structure, I wouldn’t know any other players of the top of my head who are openly gay players. That’s not saying that there’s not. I would just think we’re not there yet in terms of being open.”
The below video tells Darren’s story. In sharing it, Darren hopes to ease the struggle for players who are still on a journey to being more comfortable with their identity within the rugby community.
“We’re still a couple of years away from where we want to be but for me if this helps one person to be comfortable enough to tell my team mates. Instead of living on your own, tell people. The first couple of times are going to be horrific and they’ll be so stressed but your team mates will always have your back no matter what happens.”
There’s also advice for clubs and allies on how to be more supportive and inclusive.
“It’s a two way street – players need to have the support of the club and the club need to have the support of the player.”
And there’s a general reminder to us all to cherish what we have in the rugby community.
“We all want to be here,” he says. “We all want to be in our own club. We give our time, our money, our effort to our club so why shouldn’t it be a nice place, a nice safe environment for people to be themselves. It’s a tough auld world out there so if you can have a small sliver where you can come down and chill out and not have to worry – I think it’s a nice thing to have.
An extended podcast of his story will be available in the coming weeks that will include more of his story as well as testimony from his friends and teammates in Malahide RFC.
For now, please watch this video and consider sharing it. You can also read on for more of Darren’s story.
“For me it was a journey,” he says. “I think everyone goes through it who is a member of the community. And it’s just to get comfortable with it before you start telling everyone.
“I’ve had a few dark days and quiet days. I didn’t know what I was thinking or where I was going to go with this. How do I tell people? How do I not tell people? Do I never say it? Do I just pretend for the rest of my life?
“I moved to New Zealand – to Christchurch about 10 or 11 years ago. I went for rugby reasons – didn’t play a lot of rugby so there was more of a social side to it.
“When I was away, being honest, rumours started going around that I was gay. So when I came back, I landed on Friday and ended up playing a game on the Saturday straight away. I don’t know how jet lag didn’t hit me and I wasn’t asleep by the half time. I played it. I enjoyed it and I kind of just knew people had been talking about it.
“I was comfortable enough with it at that stage so I was like – grand. And lads asked the question, and I said yeah I was. We just went on with it and played the rest of the game or went for a beer afterwards.
“I never screamed from the top of the club house that I was gay. If people asked the question, I would have corrected them:
Oh are you going to the president’s dinner with the girlfriend? No actually I’m going with my boyfriend. And some of them were grand and that was the awkwardness over and done with.
Some would have said cool and then walked away and it would have maybe taken them a couple of weeks to get comfortable with it, which is fair enough.”
Darren didn’t hesitate when asked if Malahide RFC has his back.
“I came through the system here. I’ve played rugby with a lot of people for many years and they’d always support me no matter what. When you’re involved, especially in a scrum, you’ve got to trust who you’re with and I do trust my team mates and I hope they trust me.”
One story in particular brought it home to him that Malahide really was home to him.
“A couple of years back, I was playing with the seconds and a homophobic slur was used. Not at me, but it was used on the pitch. At the time the lads knew I was gay and stuff and the lads said ‘That’s not on.’”
“The captain of the seconds – he straight away said ‘I’m not taking this. You wouldn’t use any or slurs or anything offensive on the pitch’ and he called the referee over.”
“He [The referee] dealt with the scenario very well. He said – ‘look lads, this is not on or acceptable on this pitch. Rugby is a game of core values and respect and it has to come across.’
“So absolutely from that day on I knew Malahide were always going to be protective.
“For me at the time I was comfortable enough in my own skin, but you don’t know what your teammates are going through. They could be going through the exact same journey and just not comfortable enough to say the words just yet.
I think if we can just get the message across that it’s okay. Things are good. Trust your team mates. Trust your club. Trust the IRFU, Leinster and Munster, Connacht and Ulster and it will be all good.”
The IRFU would like to thank Darren for sharing his experience. If there is someone you would like to speak to, please consider some of the options below.
Belong To provide support and information for LGBTI+ young people through a number of support services:
Visit a Youth Group: Belong To support youth groups around the country where you can be yourself, meet new people and seek help. Click HERE for a list of support youth groups near you.
Give Belong To a Call: 01 670 6223 (Open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Send Belong To an Email: email@example.com
If you need urgent support, you can contact any one of the support services below. Many of them are open 24 hours a day. You are not alone.
24/7 Anonymous Text Support
If you need support about any type of crisis, you can chat in confidence, 24/7 with a trained crisis volunteer over text. Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you and help you move towards feeling better. Here’s how the support service works:
- Text LGBTI+ to 086 1800 280 anytime when you need support. Standard SMS rates may apply.
- A trained volunteer will listen to you and help you think more clearly, enabling you to know that you can take the next step to feel better.
The National LGBT Helpline
The National LGBT Helpline provides a confidential, listening, support and information service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The service is also used by people who are questioning if they might be LGBT, as well as the family and friends of LGBT people and professionals looking for information. The service is volunteer-run and operates Monday to Friday from 7pm to 9pm.
Visit: www.lgbt.ie Call: 1890 929 539
Pieta House offers free specialised treatment to clients who self-harm, suffer from suicidal ideation or have made multiple suicide attempts. Clients receive an intensive programme of one-to-one counselling lasting about four to six weeks. They have branches across Ireland in Ballyfermot, Finglas, Lucan, Limerick, Tallaght, Kerry, Tipperary and Galway.
Visit Website: www.pieta.ie Call: 1800 247 247
Samaritans provides confidential non-judgmental support, 24 hours a day for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide.
Visit Website: www.samaritans.org Call: 116 123
Your Mental Health
Your Mental Health is a place to learn about mental health and how to support yourself and others. Find resources and support services near you
Visit Website: www.yourmentalhealth.ie
Jigsaw offer a free service providing support and advice to young people (aged 12-25) experiencing mental health difficulties.
Visit Website: www.jigsaw.ie/help
Transgender Equality Network Ireland
Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) seeks to improve conditions and advance the rights and equality of trans people and their families. Their vision is an Ireland where trans people are understood, accepted and respected, and can participate fully in all aspects of Irish society.
Visit Website: www.teni.ie Call: 01 873 35 75
Gay Switchboard Ireland
Gay Switchboard Ireland provides a confidential telephone support service. Listening, support, and information are provided to all callers in a non- directive or judgmental way. The service is available to the LGBT community, their parents, families and friends, and to anyone who has concerns relating to sexuality, including HIV/AIDS related enquiries.
Visit Website: www.gayswitchboard.ie Call: 01 872 105