Eoin Toal: "I've just felt at home since I’ve come to Derry City"

EOIN TOAL is relishing the challenge of wearing the captain’s armband at Derry City Football Club and claims the honour has made him immensely proud.
Derry City skipper, Eoin Toal.Derry City skipper, Eoin Toal.
Derry City skipper, Eoin Toal.

The 21 year-old Armagh man fully appreciates the responsibilities that come with the job but he’s confident he’s the man to lead the Candy Stripes into the 2021 season and beyond.

Declan Devine, who made the announcement yesterday as Derry returned to pre-season training, said Toal’s leadership qualities made him ‘an ideal choice for the role’ vacated by Conor McCormack.

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It’s certainly proved a popular decision and Toal insists he’s ‘honoured’ to take up the mantle.

“I’ve just felt at home since I’ve come here and I’ve loved it,” said the defender. “It’s been five seasons now which is a bit mad but I’m really looking forward to this year and obviously being named captain is a huge honour for myself and my family.

“I can’t wait to get going. Hopefully we have a good season and give the fans something good to watch.

“It’s always something I wanted to do. Over the off season I obviously didn’t give it much thought as we didn’t know who was coming in or leaving. My focus was on freshening up for the start of preseason.

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“So when Decky told me he was going to make me captain and would I like to do it, I said ‘Of course, I’d be honoured’.”

Eoin Toal's appointment as captain proved a popular decision.Eoin Toal's appointment as captain proved a popular decision.
Eoin Toal's appointment as captain proved a popular decision.

Remarkably Toal is going into his fifth season on Foyleside having signed as an 18 year-old in May 2017 from Armagh City and is incredibly the longest serving member of the team.

It’s been a whirlwind few years in professional football for the centre half and he’s experienced plenty of ups and downs along the way.

He’s captained Northern Ireland U21s, qualified and played in Europe and in a cup final, and after the frustrations of last season, Toal reckons it’s a ‘fresh start’ for everyone and he can’t wait to get going.

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“It’s been very different from what I was used to growing up in Armagh,” he explained when asked if he had envisaged being such a key member of the team when he signed as a teenager. “Armagh is a Gaelic town and there’s not too many footballers who have come out of Armagh. There’s been a few but I’m glad I came up.

A fresh faced Eoin Toal when he signed for the club in 2017.A fresh faced Eoin Toal when he signed for the club in 2017.
A fresh faced Eoin Toal when he signed for the club in 2017.

“And only for the people of Derry, and the people at the club whom people don’t always see much of, but those are the people who have made me feel so at home. That helps as well.

“When you’re living up here and know everyone and everything is good, it’s a great place to be.

“The gaffer has been great ever since I’ve come in. He’s given me the chance to play. I was still only 19 when I came in and still played a lot of games, I can only thank him for that. Back then there weren’t too many 19 year-olds playing every week. This will be my third season playing under him and I just love coming into training and working hard.”

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Toal’s keen to repay the faith Devine has shown in him and while he’s certainly got all the attributes for the captain’s role, what kind of skipper can the team expect?

“A lot of captains can be very different. You can be vocal or just somebody who gets on with their jobs very professionally.

“I think being centre-half you have to be vocal. It’s something which will help your game massively and help others around you if you just talk, it’s something which just came naturally to me.

“You can see a lot from centre-half but my aim is to be vocal and professional on a daily basis. I’m hoping to do well as a team.

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“Last season is in the past and you’d rather just keep it there. We’ve got a good squad building up now and it’s a fresh start for everyone. There’s lots of competition for places. You’ve just got to look forward to it.”

Devine has built his 2021 team from the back with some shrewd additions and key re-signings over the past few weeks and Toal believes that competition for places will push everyone on.

“They’re all great players and there will be competition for places. Everyone has to work hard to get their shirt for the Longford game.

“It will fly in. I remember the last day of the season two months ago and it feels like yesterday.”

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After just one pre-season session it’s a tad early to be talking about goals for the season and Toal is merely focussed on the opening game at Longford on March 20th.

“It’s a bit early to say what the hopes for the season will be but, as clichéd as it sounds, our first aim will be to put in a good performance against Longford and try and to get the three points. That’s the goal we’re working towards.

“It needs to be the objective to work hard over pre-season and strive to be better as a team and to be better people and better players.”

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