When Leslie Thompson handed over control of the pitch for the T20 cup match versus Derriaghy to the umpires for the match he was doing so for the last time as the much respected groundsman at Carrickfergus Cricket Club.
Leslie is his name, though it’s rarely used by anyone who knows him, it’s Tonto to one and all.
The two wins would have given him pleasure, but for him it has always been all about the game and not necessarily about the team.
Quick to appreciate good play when he saw it, from whichever side it came, he was not above sharp criticism when he felt things were not of the required standard.
He had his opinions about players, never openly critical in my experience, his more in the ‘damning with faint praise category.’ This never more obvious than in his much quoted summing up - “Never mistake enthusiasm for ability.”
The quality of the pitches at Middle Road are the primary reason that runs come freely there and that is in no small measure down to the hours of work Tonto and others spend on them - "It's what we do." says much of the dedication that goes on there above and beyond the normal routine.
The Carrickfergus Club has issued the following valedictory to highlight the contribution of one of its longest serving members:
'This week marked the end of an era at Middle Road, with long serving groundsman Leslie Thompson preparing his final match wicket for the club, before calling it a day. Leslie, known universally as Tonto, is a former President of the Club of which he has been a member for nearly half a century, and is an Honorary Life Member.
'For the last 20 years he has also been undertaken a labour of love in looking after Carrick's Middle Road ground. During that time Tonto has seen the club progress into the NCU Premier League, and prepared wickets which matched the club's elevated status, gaining praise from players and umpires alike, and being rated as some of the best in NCU cricket.
'The Club has been rewarded by being asked to host several prestige matches during Tonto's tenure. These include matches in the European Championships in 2000, and the ICC World Cup qualifying tournament in 2005, as well as a number of domestic representative matches and cup finals. Tonto can now put his feet up, and will no doubt be around to give sage advice to his successor at Middle Road. It has been a job well done, and he will be a hard act to follow.'