Larne title winner Joe Thomson says FAI Cup win with Derry City changed his mentality

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​JOE Thomson reckons the moment he lifted the FAI Cup with Derry City last November marked a significant shift in his mentality as the former Celtic man developed an insatiable hunger for success.

​The 26 year-old Scotsman didn't have to wait long for his next piece of silverware - five months in fact - as he now prepares to lift the Gibson Cup with Larne on Friday night in front of the television cameras having helped the Invermen secure an historic first Irish Premiership title in its 134 year history.

Quite the achievement for the likeable midfielder whose January switch from Brandywell to Inver Park alongside fellow Scot and former Dunfermline teammate Andy Ryan and ex-City winger Micheal Glynn, proved a catalyst for Tiernan Lynch's men to reinforce their title credentials.

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Admittedly Thomson knew little about the Co. Antrim coastal town of Larne when he heard they were interested in bringing him to the club, other than it was where he would, at times, get the Stranraer ferry across the North Channel when returning home to his native Paisley.

Chairman Kenny Bruce and ambitious Inver Reds boss Lynch sold him their dream, a vision that 'blew me away' explained Thomson who still has two years remaining on his current deal.

He was told that he would become a 'hero' and part of a local legend if he was to help them get their first major trophy over the line and it's a prediction which has come to pass after last weekend's 2-0 victory over Crusaders at Seaview sealed the title with two games to spare!

"When I signed in January that was the reason I came here, to try and win the league and help Larne win their first major trophy," explained Thomson when speaking on the Journal's 'Talking Derry City' podcast this week.

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"I always believed I could help the team and make a difference. When we won the FAI Cup it kind of changed my mindset. I just wanted to kick on and win more trophies.

Former Derry City midfielder Joe Thomson celebrates with his Larne teammates after winning their first league title. Photo by INPHO/Stephen HamiltonFormer Derry City midfielder Joe Thomson celebrates with his Larne teammates after winning their first league title. Photo by INPHO/Stephen Hamilton
Former Derry City midfielder Joe Thomson celebrates with his Larne teammates after winning their first league title. Photo by INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

"It was good for me then to five or six months later go and win my first league trophy and I've played a major part in it since January."

Thomson was reluctant to leave Derry City behind after 18 months at the club but once he realised he wasn't guaranteed game time given the strength of Ruaidhri Higgins' midfield, he knew he had to make a big decision - one which, he believes, has now been justified.

Three of the most stressful upheavals or experiences in life are moving home, changing jobs and having a baby and Thomson and his partner Francesca lived through all three during a whirlwind past six months which has ultimately proven to be richly rewarding for the young couple.

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"It was really hard (leaving Derry). I loved playing for Derry. The fans were really good to me and obviously we had such a good group of lads and I loved staying in the city as well. So there was a lot to try and weigh up. And then obviously I had a couple of options in this league.

Joe Thomson celebrates his goal against Shelbourne at Brandywell.Joe Thomson celebrates his goal against Shelbourne at Brandywell.
Joe Thomson celebrates his goal against Shelbourne at Brandywell.

"I went and spoke to a couple of clubs and felt Larne was my best option out of the teams for me and we won the league and it kind of justifies your decision and I've played every game since I've been here. I don't know how I've done that because I had two months off and before my first game I only trained once. So I don't know how I've managed to keep fit and injury free. It's been enjoyable."

Thomson has recognised the similarities between Larne and Derry on a smaller scale but both provincial clubs are backed by a local wealthy chairman who has the best intentions of the club at heart. They're on similar upward trajectories, implementing ambitious blueprints for progress and Thomson believes there's no ceiling for either club.

"I went up and met the chairman, Kenny and the manager maybe the week after the cup final. I was kind of blown away. I knew nothing about the league. I didn't know really much about Larne itself apart from the fact I got the boat there a couple of times when I was coming over.

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"So I was kind of blown away by their vision for the club and how much faith and how they were talking to me. The belief that I could make a big difference and help them get over the line with that first league title.

"And the training ground itself for this level is unbelievable. They said to me, and I'm sure they said to a couple of other lads they signed in January, you can go and become a legend, a hero. It might sound silly but just how much it would mean to people if you could help Larne win their first major trophy.

"So that for me was exciting. I'm someone who wants to try and make a difference and that was a big factor. I wanted to be a part of the team that was the first one in Larne's history to win a major trophy.

"It is similar in a smaller scale to Derry. Obviously Larne is a lot smaller. They've maybe not had much in recent years to be happy about and cheer about so for us as a group of players to achieve this we have given people something to be happy about and it has lifted the mood around the place.

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"As footballers, you saw it with the FAI Cup, we're in such a privileged position where if we're doing well and playing good football and are successful it can make people so much happier in their lives. You have to be grateful every day that you're in that position.

"Both clubs are really ambitious and want to dominate their leagues for years to come. They just don't want to be winning all the trophies, they want to be getting into Europe and the group stages and being successful. For both clubs, what they can achieve, the sky's the limit.

"They've both got great infrastructure and people who care about the club, which is the most important thing. In both of these clubs they have two men who love the club and first and foremost are supporters and only want the best for the club."

Thomson hasn’t ruled out a return to live in Derry in the future such is the fondness he has for the city and expect to see him on matchnight at Brandywell in the coming months.

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His son remains a big Derry fan but Thomson is careful not to give out the wrong impression when he wears his No. 8 shirt on Foyleside.

"I was actually going to go to the game on Sunday but couldn't manage it. I was going to take the wee man. He used to love going to the Brandywell.

"He still runs about in his Derry gear. I had to stop him wearing his strip because he had ‘8’ and 'dad’ on the back so I didn't want people think it was Patch's (Will Patching) wain running about,” he laughed.

"He still runs about in his Derry hat and stuff like that. He used to always ask to go to the games so I'll have to bring him up again because he did really love it.”

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The former Candy Stripe can't wait for the carnival atmosphere at Inver Park on Friday as Larne host Linfield in their final home match of the season. However, Thomson knows bigger tests lay ahead as he targets a European adventure and further silverware.

"It's the last home game of the season so we get to lift it on Friday and it's on the tele too. I'm already looking forward to it.

"However, when you've won the league, you see it with Shamrock Rovers, everyone wants to beat you and you have a target on your back. Other teams I'm sure will strengthen next year which will make it harder. “We got the first one out of the way, There was a lot of pressure on us the last few months. Everyone was saying they didn't think we would do it because we hadn't been there and done it but we proved everyone wrong with that.

"That FAI Cup changed my mentality in football so I know this is a few of the lads first trophy at Larne so I'm sure it will do the same for them. It just makes you hungrier for more success.

"We will attack Europe and have the league and the cups to concern ourselves with and try and have a positive outcome on all fronts."

Listen to the full interview here