Eoin Toal leaves Derry City with heavy heart but says Bolton Wanderers move was too good to turn down

EOIN TOAL insists he leaves Derry City with a heavy heart but felt he couldn’t let the opportunity to play for Bolton Wanderers slip away.

By Simon Collins
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 7:05 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st July 2022, 7:07 pm

The 23 year-old former City skipper signed a three year deal with the League One side on Tuesday ending a six year association with the Candy Stripes.

The Armagh native ranks being handed the captain’s armband in 2020 as his ‘proudest moment’ in football but he’s always harboured hopes of playing at the top level and believes Bolton offers him the best chance to showcase his talent.

Derry could be set to earn a six-figure sum for the player should add-ons be triggered and so the move has worked out well for all parties involved considering he was out of contract at the end of the 2022 season.

Toal, who made 155 appearances for the Brandywell club, insists he will never forget his time on Foyleside or the three City managers he played under during his time, who he credits for making him both ‘a better person and a better player’.

He was signed midway through the 2015 season by Kenny Shiels, was made skipper by Declan Devine and flourished under the watchful eye of current boss Ruaidhri Higgins.

The big centre half counts himself ‘fortunate’ to have played so many games and gained invaluable experience playing for Derry over the past six seasons and hopes he’s ‘done everyone proud in Derry’.

“I’ve played a lot of games for Derry and six seasons is a long time in football,” Toal told the ‘Journal’. “I hope I’ve done everyone proud in Derry and it’s a club I will always have time for and, definitely, I’ll always be a supporter of Derry City.

Former Derry City captain Eoin Toal is unveiled as a Bolton Wanderers player this week. Photograph courtesy of Bolton Wanderers.

“Derry has been my home for five or six years. There’s some great people around the club, people who might go unnoticed. The likes of Lawrence Moore (media officer), people on the board, the local journalists; Derry people are fantastic so I won’t be a stranger,” he promised.

He’s had plenty of ups and downs during his time at Derry since moving from Armagh City but what’s been his standout memory?

“It’s hard to put it down to one stand-out memory. I always took great pride in keeping clean sheets. Or an away win, something which was beneficial for the team, I enjoyed.

“So there’s no single one memory. One of the best games I played was one we got beat in. We got beat on penalties in the EA Sports Cup Final against Dundalk,” he recalled.

Eoin Toal receives the captain's armband from former Derry City manager Declan Devine.

“But being named captain was probably the proudest moment.”

Toal was well respected by his teammates and the coaching staff at Derry and he’s received lots of well wishes since his move was officially announced.

“Everyone has wished me well. I’ve always said from the start, that I wanted to push on. If you read any interviews, I’ve always said that when I was asked the question. So when the opportunity came I think it was a good time for me to go.”

Toal’s final match for Derry was the second leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League defeat to Riga last week in Latvia. He scored in a 3-2 defeat to FK Riteriai in Vilnius in 2020 and the ex-Northern Ireland international believes those games on the continent against top level opposition and his vast senior football experience in the League of Ireland, will stand him in good stead as he prepares for this season’s League One campaign.

“I’m very fortunate to have played so many games at such a young age. I think it will stand me in good stead. I was very lucky to get my chance with Kenny (Shiels) and then Decky (Devine) played me a lot and made me captain. When Ruaidhri came in I was always starting and I have to thank all three of them as well.

“All three of them were different kinds of managers but three class personalities and I wouldn’t have a bad word to say about any of them. I got on with them all. They are three great men and they’ve made me a better person and obviously a better player as well.”

The move to Bolton has been a long time in the making and boss Ian Evatt has been keen to get his man with club officials making two bids to prise the player away from Brandywell.

It’s been a whirlwind few days for Toal who has been hugely impressed by the facilities at the club which has yo-yoed between the three divisions of the EFL since it was last in the Premiership 10 years ago.

The Whites have big ambitions to return to the Championship next year under Evatt who took them out of League Two two seasons ago.

“It’s been brilliant,” beamed Toal. “The players and staff have been very welcoming and have shown me about the place, I like it a lot.

“The stadium is unbelievable, it really is. It’s a massive stadium. It looks like a proper Premier League stadium. It’s a really good set-up, fantastic facilities and the people have all been really nice to me. I can’t complain. It’s something I’m very grateful for.”

The Bolton boss said this week there was ‘no pressure’ on Toal to hit the ground running but the defender isn’t fazed about the challenge.

“It probably will take a while for me to get my feet on the ground and get going because I’m moving to a different country and new league but I’ll be grand.

“You want to go as far as you can but at the moment I’m just focussing on getting settled here, getting training and taking one step at a time.”

Toal left Derry 23 games into the current season with the Candy Stripes sitting in second place. He was part of the squad which won the 2018 League Cup at Derry and while he wished he could’ve won more during his time at the club, he believes it’s only a matter of time before Higgins’ troops bring silverware back to Brandywell.

“I didn’t win anything at Derry, I didn’t play in the EA Sports Cup Final and I wish I could’ve won trophies but the way things are going now, they’re going in the right direction and I’ve no doubt there will be success in the Brandywell very soon.

“I left because I felt it was a good opportunity for myself to push on in my career but things are moving well at Derry since Ruaidhri has come in.

“I think we definitely put ourselves into a good position to challenge for the title at the start of the year. Obviously we let a few results slip, games that should’ve went our way. They’re only eight points behind and they can push on, get a good cup run and you never know."