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THOMPSON HEARTACHE; EUropA LEAGUE Gp A roVErs rEtUrN HoME Keeper told of pal's murder minutes before PAOK match.

Byline: PAUL O'HEHIR

RYAN THOMPSON was reduced to tears before Shamrock Rovers' clash with PAOK after learning that a good friend had been shot dead in Jamaica.

The Hoops goalkeeper returned to the side for the first time in five weeks following a neck injury but was given the devastating news before kick-off in Thessaloniki.

His best friend's sister sent him a Facebook message to tell him the grim news of 'Big Brother Dogs' sudden passing but Thompson is still unsure what exactly happened.

He was a mentor to Thompson, someone who always looked out both for him and his Jamaican pal Akeem Priestly, once a trialist at Shamrock Rovers.

Thompson has lost family members and friends to violence in Kingston, the city he was born and raised in - but admits this passing has left him completely stunned.

"He was one of my friends I grew up with. He was like a big brother to me and Akeem. None of us know what happened.

"There are so many unnecessary deaths in Jamaica right now - stupid stuff going on. I still haven't got the full story but all I know is he was shot.

"You could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't know if there was a conflict but it always stems from something."

And Thompson added of the tragedy: "I grew up in Jamaica and you always heard stuff like that. But when you're away from the country for a long time and get bad news you think 'Oh my God'.

"The next time I go back home I'm not going to see him again."

'Big Brother Dog' was a "cool guy", according to Thompson who was speaking yesterday in Thessaloniki before boarding a flight to Dublin.

"He was an older guy so he always took us aside - me and Akeem - and he would say 'you don't' want to do this' or 'you don't want to do that'. He tried to encourage us.

"He was maybe like a mentor - a guy who looks out for us. If anything happened to us he would help us."

Having got the news on Thursday, Thompson admitted he broke down. But he managed to keep his emotions in check during the clash with PAOK.

"I was thinking about it going into the game but I try to use all this stuff in a positive way," he added.

"Bad things happen in life, negative things. It's how you take it."

The 171 Shamrock Rovers fans in attendance at the Toumbas Stadium and the thousands watching at home had no idea he was going through personal torment.

And although the Hoop conceded two goals, Thompson could do little about either.

Already hugely popular with the Rovers support, his bravery on Thursday night will endear himself even more to those supporters.

And Thompson feels privileged to have carved out a career in Europe with Michael O'Neill, inset, and that has taken him away from the streets of Kingston.

"I give a lot of thanks for it because I could have been in Jamaica and anything could have happened," he stated.

"I could be walking and some guy comes up and shoots me because I'm between point A and point B. Stupid stuff like that happens.

"Living in Ireland I really appreciate things here. I can walk around normally without fear. It makes you appreciate life more often. That's why I play with all I have.

"You never know if it is going to be your last game or your last day."

CAPTION(S):

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:5JAMA
Date:Oct 22, 2011
Words:619
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