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Trinity Sport Scholarship Student and Leinster Rugby Player Jack Dunne chats about his road to success both on and off the rugby pitch

Published: Jan 12th

Jack Dunne is no ordinary rugby player.

He had his choice of any courses in Ireland after maximising his leaving certificate at St Michael’s College. Though already set on his path of professional rugby, he chose a highly demanding academic discipline: Theoretical Physics at Trinity College Dublin. “It is basically physics, with loads and loads of maths,” he says.

“When I was choosing what course, I was going to do, I thought about business. In the end, I didn’t find it interesting. I always found physics interesting, spending time on YouTube watching random stuff, like black holes and the likes.” The mathematical gene was passed on from his Dad Joe, who also studied the subject. Mum Olwyn steered more towards languages. Dunne is also a Gaeilgeoir, “my teacher, Ronan Joyce, was incredibly passionate about the language and inspired my love for speaking Irish. I also got involved with the language again through An Cumann Gaelach in Trinity.”

The fine balance between the competing demands of being a professional rugby player with Leinster and a Theoretical Physics student has been struck, so far. “I have managed to do all my modules, so far and Trinity have been great for allowing me to spread out my course over extra years so I can balance my studies with training for Leinster.”

Jack who signed his first professional rugby contract with Leinster Rugby at the start of the 2020 / 21 season goes onto explain his love of rugby, “It is much more fun than studying the books! I enjoy the rugby more so. I love the energy of rugby – the highs that come with it. The lows aren’t great, but they are part of it too.” Jack is currently coming off the back of a long ankle injury and right now his goal for the season is to get back into training and push for more game time with Leinster Rugby.

Dunne spoke openly for the first time about being bisexual during Leinster Rugby’s Pride panel. The second row made it clear, that his sexuality is no secret to his teammates, and that he was not “coming out”, but rather speaking openly about it for the first time. “I kind of realised when I was maybe fifteen or sixteen but you’re in a school full of teenage boys. I think a lot of them were saying things that they weren’t even thinking about – if they actually stopped and had a thought about what they’d said, they’d probably think “I shouldn’t be saying that.” They’re probably doing it out of ignorance. Hearing that, subconsciously you’re like “you probably should just keep this to yourself”. When you’re bisexual, it’s almost like a blessing and a curse. You can hide it easier; you can still go out with the lads on Saturday night and do all that stuff, but then at the same time it’s easier to hide it and easier not to be true to yourself. Eventually I was in sixth year and I told one or two people. They took it well, so I was like “you know what, I’ll just tell everyone.” It went pretty well – there were one or two people who said, ‘you’re not bisexual, you’re just gay- but largely it was overwhelmingly positive.”

Jack Dunne is the only male Irish sportsperson currently active to publicly identify as bisexual. “Unfortunately, bi-erasure is still a thing so when I arrived at Leinster a lot of people had heard I was gay, but they were all very supportive when I informed them that I was bisexual.” To hear an active Irish sportsperson like Jack Dunne acknowledging his struggle with coming out as bisexual will hopefully be a powerful message of support to any young people in Ireland – particularly sportspeople – struggling with their own sexuality or identity. Jack’s advice for anyone struggling with their sexuality or identity is that “not everyone is going to accept you but what’s most important is that you are happy with who you are.” Commenting on whether this is a new era of acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community at the highest level of Irish sport Dunne said, “I think there’s huge growth going on, but there’s definitely some way to go. Players and coaches all need to take responsibility to call out homophobic incidents or language they hear.”

Dunne has been regularly contributing to ShoutOut Ireland, an organisation that organises workshops for schools across Ireland on LGBTQ+ rights. “ShoutOut is a fantastic organisation that gives educational workshops in schools across the country. Their philosophy is one that believes that overcoming ignorance is key in overcoming bigotry. When kids learn about and get to ask questions about LGBTQ+ issues they're less likely to have a "fear of the unknown" per se. If any teachers, students or parents are interested please do get in contact with ShoutOut for more information.”

Jack Dunne was recently awarded the Trevor West Scholarship by Trinity Sport; this scholarship is awarded to exceptional athletes who have shown outstanding contribution to sport at Trinity College Dublin and within their respective clubs. This article was first published in the Winter edition of Trinity Today which you can read HERE