Derry City's Eoin Toal believes Ian Baraclough would be perfect man to replace Michael O'Neill

DERRY CITY defender Eoin Toal believes Ian Baraclough is the perfect man to succeed Michael O’Neill as manager of the Northern Ireland senior team.
Northern Ireland U21 defender, Eoin Toal believes Ian Baraclough's potential appointment in the senior post would be beneficial for domestic based players.Northern Ireland U21 defender, Eoin Toal believes Ian Baraclough's potential appointment in the senior post would be beneficial for domestic based players.
Northern Ireland U21 defender, Eoin Toal believes Ian Baraclough's potential appointment in the senior post would be beneficial for domestic based players.

Current Northern Ireland U21 boss, Baraclough, is one of the leading contenders to take the post vacated by Stoke City manager, O’Neill and U21 skipper, Toal reckons it would be an appointment which could also benefit those plying their trade in the Irish League and League of Ireland.

Baraclough guided Sligo Rovers to the League of Ireland title in 2012, the FAI Cup in 2013 and the Setanta Cup in 2014 and Toal believes the 49 year-old Englishman has never forgotten where he made his name in management.

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He’s already shown, much like O’Neill, his willingness to scout and hand opportunities to homegrown talents playing football in their domestic leagues and should he pip the likes of Tommy Wright, Stephen Robinson and Club NI chief, Jim Magilton to the IFA’s top job, Toal reckons it would be a seamless transition.

Asked about Baraclough’s qualities, Toal pointed to the former Motherwell manager’s man-management skills and his insistence on ‘playing the right way’.

“Last year we went to Spain and since then he’s been very good to me,” said the City centre half.

“He’s a nice guy first and foremost and is very good with his players. He’s a good man-manager. He also has a good way of playing.” added the former Armagh City man. “With Northern Ireland you’re playing against countries who are very highly equipped. He wouldn’t set up really defensive. We would always stay in games and would always have chances in games.

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“So that would be a good thing if he was to take the top job. He encourages us to play and I’m sure he would take that into the senior job.”

Baraclough’s current involvement with the IFA may give him the edge over his opponents for the senior international post and it’s understood the Leicester native has the backing of O’Neill.

Should he get the nod, Toal believes it would be a good sign for those in the current U21 set-up including the likes of himself and his Derry City teammate, Nathan Gartside.

“There are a good few guys playing first team football in Ireland who are in the squad so he’s proven that. Myself and Nathan are in the squad so it’s good for Derry City too. Obviously winning the league with Sligo and having had that experience, he knows the League of Ireland is a good standard and that’s probably why he’s got me in the squad and a couple of other boys from the Irish League as well.

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“He knows if you’re playing first team football in these leagues it means a lot. It’s easier for him to pick boys who are over in England and playing football over there but he likes to see people playing first team football and gets them into the U21 squad which is good.

“From when I first went in he’s given everyone a chance to get into the squad.If he thinks you’re good enough he always gives you a chance to play U21 games.”

"I know he watches a lot of games and has boys watching games for him.

“He gives the boys in the League of Ireland and Irish League a good chance. So he’s very good that way. With Michael, he was never afraid to bring in people, like Shane Lavery and others who were playing in the Irish League. So that’s always good. You know if you’re working hard, whether that’s at Derry or in any team in Ireland it doesn’t go unnoticed. They are watching you all the time.”

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Baraclough has transformed the fortunes of the U21s since taking the job almost three years ago and Toal admits it was a ‘proud’ moment when he handed him the captain’s armband ahead of the Euro 2021 qualifier against Romania at the Ballymena Showgrounds last November.

“At the time the squad captain, Conor Hazard, had been suspended against Romania the previous game. He missed the next game against them and Ian just asked me to captain the squad.

“It was as simple as that but it did give me a good boost. It was a good moment for myself. We obviously didn’t get the result we wanted against Romania but it just showed he had faith in me. He could’ve given it to anyone else, so it was a great confidence boost at the time.”

We’re entering the sixth week since the League of Ireland was suspended and Toal admits he’s been missing the daily rountines with the squad which were taken for granted.

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“It will be just good to get back playing. You miss playing matches and going in and seeing the lads. You don’t know how much until it’s gone. It puts everything into perspective. It’s been five or six weeks but hopefully we get back sooner rather than later.”

Toal is fortunate in that he lives less than 60 seconds from his old club, Armagh City and its training facillities and so he’s been able to carry out his programme set by the club. It’s not much of a substitute for Derry City training matches or competitive games but he hopes there’s now light at the end of the tunnel with the FAI currently investigating playing behind closed doors.

“I’m up home in Armagh with my family. I’m fortunate enough as I live just out beside Armagh City’s pitch and they have public pitches there beside it as well. So I can do all my running and whatever I want there. It’s like a one minute walk from my house.

“The first thing I think any player wants to do is just to get back training and back into our normal routine. From a players’ perspective I think that’s what most of us would want.

“Playing games, whether it’s behind closed doors or whatever, would just be a plus. As a player you just want to get back playing games as soon as possible.”