Jerry Thompson's loving nature touched so many people, priest tells funeral of tragic footballer
A young Irish League player who died suddenly will be remembered for his kindness and goodness, mourners at his funeral heard.
Teammates joined the grief-stricken relatives of Gerard 'Jerry' Thompson, who passed away last Tuesday.
It is understood the 24-year-old, who played for Carrick Rangers, took his own life.
On Saturday there was standing room only at the Sacred Heart Church in north Belfast as the funeral Mass began, with hundreds of friends and family in attendance.
Former teammates from a range of football clubs, including his Carrick Rangers colleagues, attended in their club strip and some mourners wore T-shirts bearing an image of the former full-back.
Local priest Fr Darach Mac Giolla Cathain said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Jerry's family. In particular, his parents Gerard and Leanne, sisters Chantelle and Aisling, grandmother Bernie and his girlfriend Samantha together with their son Thiago.
"I welcome Jerry's many friends, especially those from the world of football.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
"So many here today will know Jerry from his footballing exploits and all the different teams he was associated with. His smile, his mischievousness, larger-than-life personality, his kindness, goodness and loving nature touched so many people.
"Important though football was to him, it is clear that family came first. He was so very good to his family, especially to his granny Bernie, taking her to hospital appointments, bringing her out to dinner or taking her to the cinema.
"He was, in her words, a wee star.
"For you Samantha, Jerry was the love of your life. You will make Jerry proud and be an amazing mum to Thiago. Let love continue to be your response in this situation."
A minute's silence was held across the Irish League fixtures on Saturday, with Portadown's away game at Ballinamallard United moved to 5pm in order to allow players and staff to attend the funeral.
His former Larne teammates also paid tribute to him yesterday by lifting aloft a shirt with his name and the number three on the back when they opened the scoring at home to Coleraine.
Following the dad-of-one's death, Carrick chairman Peter Clarke revealed the club would retire his number 21 jersey in a bid to help educate young footballers about mental health.
The former Cliftonville, Larne, Donegal Celtic, Portadown and Ards player had been due to start for Carrick Rangers against Glenavon last Tuesday night before the club announced the news of his death.
The doting father had been looking forward to Christmas and had already picked out matching father-and-son tracksuits, according to his family.
Speaking from the family home in north Belfast, his mother Leanne Thompson (39) said the devastated family were still searching for answers. She told the Belfast Telegraph: "He was just our hero, we're just going to miss him something serious.
"He loved us, he loved his girlfriend and we just don't understand why he did this.
"He was doing so well in his football. He scored goals, he set goals up and that's all my Gerard lived for was his football. It was just like a split second, whatever it is came over his head and he was gone."
Sharing her own tribute on social media, his partner Samantha Storey thanked people for their support, saying: "All Jerry would want for our son is for me to be a strong mother and I will try my best to pull this all together for our baby boy, I promise."
Devastated Carrick Rangers manager Niall Currie also paid tribute to his former full-back, adding: "Jerry was a special young man. He was unassuming, always smiling and had a wonderful personality as well as being a wonderful footballer."
- If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by any issues in this article, please contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000