Johnny Thompson has confirmed that this will be his last season playing club cricket but he wants to go out in style by playing in a 13th North West Senior Cup final.

He has the chance to do that on Sunday when Newbuildings face Fox Lodge in this year’s semi-final at Ballymagorry, a repeat of last year’s two-day decider when the  Foxes came out on top.

“I’ve turned 40 (this month) so I’m going to hang up my boots,” he told me. “I’ve have already told the guys, I don’t think anything will change my mind, I’ve always wanted to take up golf.”

Although Thompson has a remarkable record of reaching cup finals – two as a youngster witih Donemana, three with Glendermott and six with Brigade before Newbuildings’ first final - he has only six winners’ medals to show for it.

“I haven’t a wild record of success in finals but hopefully another one this year with Newbuildiings, that’ll be the highlight of my career and the perfect way to finish,” said Thompson.

“It would be good to out on a high and it would be good if we got Brigade (who play Eglinton in Sunday’s other semi) in the final, having been there for 10 years, so a chance to play against some of old friends.

“As you know, I put 100 per cent into every game but on Sunday I’ll be putting in 200 per cent, that’s the big one.”

Another factor in Thompson declaring it will be his last season is a shoulder pain which is now consistently troubling him.

“I have had a cortisone injection in my shoulder, so it’s getting me through, but the doctor said if you keep playing it’ll prolong the injury and when I reach 50 or 60 he said I may not be able to lift that arm up. So I said to myself, ‘what’s the point of going on’, the rotator cuff has worn away, it’s bone on bone that’s what’s causing the pain.”

Thompson, with the help of heavy strapping for every match – “If someone punched me on the arm I wouldn’t even feel it” – is still opening the bowling for Newbuildings but he knows he has a ready-made replacement in that role in 16-year-old Charlie Downey, and the former Ireland A player has great hopes for the Lisneal College student’s future.

“I’ve been watching him, since I came to Newbuildings in the Covid years and nothing fazes him. This is his first season in the 1st XI but he has already taken 21 wickets (only five bowlers have more) he comes on first change after me and last week he bowled his eight overs, mostly against Blyde Capell, for 37 runs, while the rest of us were getting pumped around.

“He will go places and I’ll say it now, he will play for Ireland, he’s that good,” added Thompson.

The cup semi-final is the second part of a double header between Newbuildings and Fox Lodge, who meet at Foyleview in the Premiership with the home side desperate for league points.

They currently find themselves in ninth place, albeit with a match in hand of the two teams above them and Thompson is confident Newbuildings will be in the Premiership next season.

“We are good enough to make top eight, I know we still have to put the points on the board but we have a lot of the so called weaker teams to play, after this weekend, the next four or five games are all winnable and I think we’ll be all right”.