Jerry Thompson was a special young man, says Carrick Rangers manager Niall Currie
Heartbroken Carrick Rangers manager Niall Currie has paid a warm and touching tribute to the late Gerard 'Jerry' Thompson, describing the footballer as a "special young man with a wonderful personality".
The sudden death on Tuesday of the 24-year-old from Belfast has hit the football fraternity in Northern Ireland hard. When Carrick announced the sad news on Tuesday night, it led to an outpouring of emotion across the Irish League.
An all-action hero as a player - previously with Cliftonville, Larne, Donegal Celtic, Portadown and Ards - Thompson was also a popular figure off the pitch, enjoying his football at Carrick, where he joined in the summer.
He had become a regular in the side under Currie and had been due to play at Glenavon on Tuesday evening.
Tearful Currie said that everyone connected with the club was in a state of shock and devastation, adding that Carrick would do all they could to help Jerry's family at this harrowing time.
"Jerry was a special young man. He was unassuming, always smiling and had a wonderful personality as well as being a wonderful footballer," said Currie.
"When he came to our club he was determined to give his best and he did that.
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"It was a pleasure for all of us to have Jerry at Carrick Rangers.
"The level of performance that he had been delivering in recent weeks was sensational.
"Jerry will be a part of this club forever and our squad forever and part of me forever.
"We are all heartbroken, the players, committee and staff are heartbroken.
"He was part of our family and we are devastated to lose him.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
"All we can think about now is Jerry's family and we will do whatever we can for them at this time of tragedy." Carrick chairman Peter Clarke added: "Jerry was so enthusiastic and full of energy. He told me recently he had fallen in love with football again and loved the family atmosphere at our club.
"He was always a joy to be with and we are all shocked and saddened by what has happened."
Thompson's manager at Larne, Tiernan Lynch, said: "Jerry wore his heart on his sleeve and gave everything that he had to us. He would have run through a brick wall for you. In our Irish Cup run to the semi-finals in 2018, he was outstanding and won a host of player of the year awards that season.
"Off the pitch he was a very witty kid and had lots of banter with the rest of the boys. Our hearts go out to his family."
Portadown boss Matthew Tipton said: "Jerry was full of enthusiasm and energy as a person and that was the way he played. He was a really good guy and I couldn't believe the news because I saw him at the weekend and he was in good spirits. It is such a sad situation and we all feel for his family."
Carrick's league game on Saturday at Cliftonville has been postponed as a mark of respect.