IT had been two years since Stuart Thompson had played a one-day international for Ireland, but in May last year he was set for his comeback in the glamour match of the season, against England at Malahide. But he is still waiting to play his 20th ODI.
“Two days before the England game, I took a diving catch at practice and popped my collarbone out of its joint so have been waiting since then to get back,” says Thompson.
“That put a hold on the majority of my season but now I’m itching to get back into the ODI set-up and make a spot in the team my own.”
Ireland will take an enlarged squad to Southampton this month for a 12-day training camp ahead of the ODI series against England, starting on July 30, and Thompson is hoping to be included.
If not, the 28-year old all-rounder has plenty of time and a new club challenge.
“I had always toyed with the idea of moving to the NCU and I’m hoping a career-wise move away from home will lead to more positive things,” said the new signing for Civil Service North.
”I could have been comfortable and stayed at Eglinton for the rest of my playing days – and it was a difficult decision to leave with the family connection – his father, former international Nigel started and finished his career there – and playing with friends, but this fresh start will keep me motivated and I’m looking to improve.”
His international career didn’t come to halt in 2018, despite missing out on the World Cup qualifiers that year.
(Nigel and Stuart Thompson)
Two months later, Thompson was playing in Ireland’s inaugural Test match against Pakistan – and he has been an ever-present in all three Test match line-ups, taking 10 wickets and scoring a half-century – and played in five of the games when Ireland qualified for the T20 World Cup.
“Even to play Test cricket was amazing,” says Thompson.
“Our first day at Malahide was washed out so that relaxed me a lot and that’s what I enjoy about Test cricket, you always have a chance to get into the game.
“In Dehradun we played against a good Afghanistan side and of course Lord’s was the real highlight. We don’t know when our next Test will be but hopefully there’s more opportunities in the coming years and the more we play the better we will get.”
The T20 World Cup, due to be played in Australia in October/November is another event likely to be put on hold but Thompson, one of 19 contracted players, can expect to be in that squad when the tournament takes place.
“It will be a great opportunity for us,” he adds.
“I have a lot of work in my game to get into the team and perform but there is a lot of cricket before then and if the global pandemic has taught us anything it is not to look too far into the future, and just take it game by game.”
For now he is looking forward to meeting his new CSN team-mates this week, ahead of a probable start to the NCU season in just two weeks’ time.
“I moved up to Belfast a week ago, sharing a house with Stirlo (Paul Stirling) and from next week onwards I’ll be helping out with the coaching and catching up with the rest of the CSN squad.
“Obviously I know Gary Wilson and Graeme McCarter (another North Wester and former Ireland team-mate) but there is a lot of emphasis at CSN on youth which I’m hearing a lot of good things about so excited to see and work them, but it looks like a pretty good side and excited by what I can bring to the team and win trophies at the end of the year.”
The plan for the club season, because of Covid-19, is exclusively T20 cricket but that will suit Thompson just fine as he eases himself into a new environment.
“The majority of my Ireland games have been T20 (47 out of 83) so I will bring a little bit of experience to the team and will be putting my hand up to open the batting (a role he filled six times for Ireland).
“There are some very good club sides in the NCU so competition will be pretty high and I will need to be on it and perform. But I have always enjoyed playing at Stormont (he scored his maiden 50 for Ireland there in 2014 against Sri Lanka A), I love the decks for both bat and ball and the club covers all bases as a player.
“Youngy (Craig Young, his North West Warriors and Ireland team-mate) moved to North Down (from Bready) last season and he was very positive about the competition of the league, so that influenced me coming down. So looking forward to the fresh challenge.”