Derry City's Eoin Toal happy expectation levels have risen

Despite turning just 21 this weekend, defender Eoin Toal feels he's becoming somewhat of a veteran player in the Derry City dressing room.

Now in his third year with the club, the Armagh man, who has attracted attention from a host of cross channel clubs, feels the more experience he gets the better player he hopes to become.

“As the years go on you get more experience and hopefully if I just keep playing more games and the older I get, I’m coming 21 soon, then hopefully I’ll continue to improve,” he stated.

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“I might only be 21 but I have a few years’ experience behind me now and being a centre-half, you need to be talking a lot and hopefully those last few years will help me this season.”

Toal, who signed for City after Kenny Shiels spotted him playing for Armagh City in the Irish League Championship and since then he hasn’t looked back.

“I have always loved it here at Derry, it’s a great club and things are done right,” he added.

“I just love training every day and hopefully I’ll be on the team-sheet for Friday.

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“I can’t wait for the season to get started. It’s always good to get pre-season over and done with as it's always hard, yes it was a tough pre-season but now everyone is just looking forward to the Dundalk game.”

After securing European football for this season, Toal knows that the Brandywell faithful will be hoping for even better things in 2020 and he hopes the recent signings will only but enhance the squad.

“Expectation levels have risen this season, but to be honest expectations levels at Derry are always going to be high, because it’s such a big club,” he added.

“There’s going to be competition for places, I know that and everybody in the squad knows that. It’s going to be hard to get into the starting line-up, it will be who trains the best and puts in the best performance.”

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Since performing well for the Candy Stripes, the big centre-back has been called into Ian Baraclough’s Northern Ireland U21 squad and those games have also helped him develop his game.

“Going away for the internationals is always a good experience,” he explained.

“Testing yourself against proper elite players at your own age, so yes there U21’s games are coming up soon, but my main focus now is all about Friday night, hopefully I'll be on the team-sheet and hopefully we can get a result.”

Since joining Derry one team-mate who has helped Toal both on and off the pitch has been former flat-man Darren Cole, who continues to recover from his serious knee injury.

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“Coley has helped me out both on and off the pitch,” he confirmed.

“Two years ago when I first came to the club, when I was playing alongside him at centre-half, he was brilliant, but unfortunately for him he’s out with an injury, but he’s in every day, training well and hopefully he’ll be back before the summer and it will be good to get him back in the squad as well, because he will bring more competition to us.

“I’m having withdrawal symptoms not having him in the gaff, he has moved out and left me on my own, but jokes aside he’s a great lad and hopefully he’ll back sooner rather than later.”