'Our heart is broken': Larne pay special tribute to Jerry Thompson as Irish League stands to remember Carrick player
The Irish League stood together to pay tribute to Jerry Thompson on Saturday afternoon in the first round of fixtures since the Carrick Rangers player's death on Tuesday.
Minutes of silence or applause were held at all five Danske Bank Premiership matches, with his Carrick side's game at Cliftonville postponed.
The emotion was evident at Inver Park, where Thompson's former club Larne drew 2-2 with Coleraine.
After David McDaid gave the hosts an early lead, his former team-mates held Thompson's old Larne shirt aloft, complete with his number three on the back.
"It was a very emotional day," reflected manager Tiernan Lynch, who brought Thompson to the club in 2017.
"It's been a very emotional week. Young Jerry was a massive part of the beginning of our journey at the club. He was a young lad who was hugely loved and respected in our changing room.
"The boys found it very difficult this week to deal with the news and today was a difficult day for them off the field as well as on it.
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"The heart, desire and hunger that they showed on the pitch did Jerry proud."
Lynch admitted he didn't want to lose Thompson when the left-sided player opted to move to Portadown last summer, adding to the praise of his flawless attitude.
"He was a top, top, top kid," the manager said. "He was a young lad that every time you saw him, he had a smile on his face. He loved Larne. He was a fan favourite. You knew what you were getting week-in, week-out. You had to drag him off the training pitch, drag him out of games when he was injured and wanted to play on.
"He wore his heart on his sleeve. I don't think there was a game or a training session when he gave less than 100% and as a club and a team, our heart is broken this week. He'll never be forgotten."
In the match, Coleraine had threatened to take all three points to the north coast when Eoin Bradley and Josh Carson overturned the deficit before half-time.
However, Larne rallied to earn the draw through Mark Randall's leveller just hours after some of his former team-mates had attended Thompson's funeral.
"He was a special boy and they're a special team," continued Lynch. "They would have loved to have got three points for him but great credit to them, they came through a very difficult week, tried their best to dust themselves off and be professional.
"I couldn't ask any more of them."
Larne goalkeeper Conor Devlin was rightly named man of the match, making a string of top drawer saves, including late on to deny Bradley a winning goal.
"Conor will tell you that's why he's there," said Lynch. "I thought he was superb. He really showed his quality. He's a top goalkeeper. We watch things like that every day with him so it's not a surprise to us.
"Conor had a tough day. Conor and Jerry were very close. They were probably our first signings when we came in and I thought he did Jerry extremely proud."
Thompson was in the thoughts of everyone connected with the league, as summed up by Ballymena boss David Jeffrey.
"It's such a sad day for Irish League football," he told Radio Ulster. "We have got to take time and remember his family and the whole community. We hope that they will know the love, thoughts and prayers that have gone with them and will continue to go with them. You are very much in our thoughts and prayers, God bless."
Belfast Telegraph Digital