“I hope he will be my best man again on Friday!,” jokes Shannon star Andrew Thompson when referring to the fact that his scrum half partner against England Counties at Donnybrook will be his brother-in-law, Fiach O’Loughlin.
In the summer of 2005 Fiach delivered an hilarious best man’s speech at Andrew’s wedding but there will be no joking when they trot out together in two days’ time for what will be Andrew’s first appearance in a club international.
“I missed the first club international last year because I was out injured with damaged ribs sustained in a game against Cork Constitution, and couldn’t be considered,” said the experienced Shannon out-half.
“I am really looking forward to the game. It should be a great occasion and the fact that I will be linking up again with Fiach, for the first time in two seasons, is a big boost.
“We played together when helping Shannon win three or four All-Ireland League titles,” admitted Andrew, before modestly confirming that he holds eight AIB League winners’ medals and as many for the Munster Senior Cup.
A native of Borris-in-Ossory, County Laois, Thompson was educated at Wilsons Hospital near Westmeath where he began his rugby career.
He also played hurling with his local club and was chosen on the Laois minor hurling team.
“I would have played twice at Croke Park but for injury, but I’m looking forward to attending on Saturday. It promises to be a fantastic occasion,” he said of Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with England.
And when his rugby career comes to an end, Thompson plans to go back playing hurling “for the fun of it.”
But as of now, only Friday’s game is on his mind.
“In additon to partnering Fiach at half-back, both he and I are also very familiar with the style of play of our captain, Dave Quinlan.
“Thus the numbers 8, 9 and 10 are well acquainted with each other which should be a help in what is sure to be a difficult game.”
Thompson played for the Leinster Schools ‘A’ side and has also represented Ireland at Under-21, Students and Colleges level.
He has also played for Munster, including action in the European Cup. Referring to his two Heineken Cup outings as a winger against Bourgoin in 1997, he added: “That was before success came our way and my last game for the province was in 2000.”
His decision to join Shannon when still at Wilsons Hospital came about somewhat by chance.
“I had played in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup and was then asked by a Shannon club member to join and assist them at Under-18 level. I’m thrilled that I did so.”
On completion of his secondary education, Andrew moved to Limerick where he studied at the LIT.
“While there I met a girl studying valuation surveying. Her name was Sinead and her mother, Brigid O’Loughlin, was the PRO for Shannon and her father, Ger, was a prominent officer with the club.
“We started going out together and we married in 2005,” said Thompson, who is a senior partner in the quantity surveying firm of Davis Langdon PKS.
He took a break from Shannon, a few years ago, and joined a French club which went out of business and he then joined Bedford who were in the top English division at that time.
The best players he saw action with include Mick Fitzgibbon, Mick Galwey, Pat Murray, Rhys Ellison and Jim Galvin while the toughest opponent he faced was former French international Thierry Lacroix.
Thompson, who turns 33 next month, trained with the Irish club squad at Barnhall RFC last Sunday. He was a dominant player when Shannon trounced Dungannon 31-0 last Saturday, scoring a delightful try when he gathered his own delicate chip ahead. He also landed two penalties and a conversion.
“Things are going pretty well for me right now and I hope to help Ireland to victory this time round and to keep my place for the away game against Scotland,” said the man combines who somehow combines a hectic and record-breaking sporting life with an equally busy career off the field.
– You can follow Friday’s AIB Club International between Ireland’s AIB League stars and England Counties (Donnybrook, kick-off 7.05pm) with our live match tracker on www.IrishRugby.ie. RTE Two will also have live coverage of the game, beginning at 7pm –