Hard work sets Derry City apart: claims skipper Eoin Toal

EOIN TOAL believes the backbone to Derry City’s early season success is down to hard work and togetherness.

Derry City captain Eoin Toal.
Derry City captain Eoin Toal.

The City skipper is in his sixth season with the Candy Stripes and believes the class of 2022 have a work ethic and quality which sets them apart from previous teams he’s been involved in at the Brandywell club.

Derry’s 2-1 derby victory over Finn Harps on Saturday evening extended the club’s winning run to six matches and unbeaten run to nine having played every team in the division.

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It’s an encouraging start and while the addition of some of the league’s best attacking talent has given Derry fans real hope of challenging for a first league title since 1997, there has been a definite tightening of the reins at the back which Toal believes has provided a solid base.

Brian Maher and Shane McEleney have been added to the defensive unit which has conceded just six goals from the opening nine matches and they were unfortunate not to keep a fourth clean sheet of the campaign on Saturday, the 92nd minute concession of a penalty putting paid to that. Of course Cameron Dummigan has also been influential in shoring up the backline from his deep lying midfield role.

It’s been Derry’s best start to a league campaign for some time and when asked what he believed was the major difference from previous campaigns, Toal reckons the key has been hard graft and a cohesive dressing room.

“I think hard work is the difference,” said the defender. “We’re a very honest group as you saw there (against Finn Harps). Everyone gave everything, 100 percent and that should be the minimum for a footballer.

“Obviously there’s quality added to the group as well which helps but since Ruaidhri has come in it’s really gelled together and all the hard work is paying off.”

Toal was unfortunate in the 2-0 win over UCD not to get on the scoresheet as his headed goal was scratched off when a Derry player was adjudged to be interfering with play from an offside position. He wants to increase his five goal haul for the club and revealed assistant boss Alan Reynolds has put the onus on the City defence to get amongst the goals.

“We were looking at that as a backline at the start of the year and were hoping we could score more goals,” he said. “Last year we got off to a really good start with Cameron (McJannet) and Ronan (Boyce) and we’re looking to score more goals this year.”

Will Patching has stolen the headlines with two stunning strikes in the previous two matches but the fact Boyce (twice) and McJannet have also shown their prowess in front of goal over the past few fixtures has given the City defence encouragement.

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“Cameron scored with a brilliant header. So hopefully we can all chip in with more goals,” added Toal.

Derry were forced to dig deep in the second half, described by Higgins as ‘ugly’ against Harps, and Toal was pleased with how they defended as a team.

“That was definitely the most important thing, to come down here and get the three points. We know over the years how hard a venue it is to come to. I thought we were brilliant in the first half.

“We were the better side in the first half but the second half got a bit scrappy. That happens in derbies. We dug it out really well and it was a bit of brilliance from Patch in the end.

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“I also thought we defended brilliantly as a team and the win was most important thing. We could’ve had another clean sheet but overall we defended really well as a unit. They found it really hard to break us down. The pressure was coming on in the second half but I felt we dealt with it really well.”

Toal is looking forward to returning to Brandywell after eight tough days on the road and he hopes they can continue the momentum.

“Six wins on the trot is very hard to achieve in this league and we also had three on the bounce away from home, taking nine form nine isn’t bad. But we look towards Shelbourne at home.

“We’re looking forward to that one and hopefully we can get a win. Nine points from nine gives us confidence and good momentum going into Friday’s game.”