EOIN TOAL praised Declan Devine for keeping faith in him and claims the Derry City boss is bringing the best out of him as he establishes himself as a pivotal player for club this season.
Former City boss, Kenny Shiels likened the Armagh youngster to former Man United and current Leicester City centre half, Jonny Evans during his breakthrough season at the club last year.
And current City supremo, Devine claimed after Friday night’s win over Cork City that Toal ‘is a player who can achieve whatever he wants to achieve’, predicting a cross-channel move for the youngster in the near future.
Toal signed a three-year deal in July 2017 and has gone on to make 50 appearances for the Brandywell club in less than two seasons. He’s been involved in every game this campaign and has grown into an accomplished central defender, forming an impressive partnership with Ally Gilchrist at the heart of the City defence for much of the season.
He’s delighted to have the faith of his manager and insists he’s loving life on Foyleside and is back playing with a smile on his face.
“I kind of dipped my toe in last year,” said Toal. “I still played a lot of games but as a team we didn’t do well. I think Decky and the staff are doing a brilliant job here this year and I really, really look forward to training every day and that’s the main thing. I’m just buzzing to be playing every week.”
Devine was full of praise for Toal’s performance against Cork City last Friday night and predicted bigger and better things for the talented defender who recently made the step-up to the Northern Ireland U21 panel.
“Eoin Toal is 20 years of age and I think if he keeps going the way he’s going he won’t be at this football club and won’t be in Ireland much longer,” predicted Devine. “He’s a player who can achieve whatever he wants to achieve.
“I still think there’s room for improvement and I’d like to be the person who helps him improve those aspects of his game,” he added. “His mental strength, his courage, his bravery on the ball and his ability to play against top centre forwards and defend properly is fantastic.”
It’s those type of comments which has given Toal the confidence to go and play his natural game and he’s maturing as a leader on the pitch this year.
“It’s great to hear that from your coach and for him to think that of me,” said Toal. “To even have the faith to play me at 20 years-old every week just shows you the sort of man he is. He’s a top class coach as well and I just love working under him.
“My main focus here is Derry,” he added. “I love it every day here and I’m just happy to be playing.”
He delivered a commanding performance against Cork City on Friday night, scoring the all important opening goal. It was his second senior goal with his first coming 12 months ago in the 2-2 draw with Dundalk at Oriel Park.
“First goal is crucial in this league,” said Toal. “If you score it you’ve got a serious chance and I was happy to score the first goal against Cork. The only two goals I’ve scored have been against two of the bigger teams. I think it’s vitally important as a centre half to score a few goals as well and I’m just glad to get one.”
Toal is eager off the best and says he relishes playing against the top players in the League of Ireland as it helps him develop his own game.
“I really look forward to playing against the big teams. Cork have six or seven boys who have won the FAI Cup and the league so they are very experienced players. I look up to their centre halves and Dundalk’s centre halves and see if I can pick up things to make me a better player.”
Despite starting all but one game this season, he’s taking nothing for granted and knows he’s got plenty of competition to keep him on his toes this season.
“I didn’t start the St Pat’s game and the boys were super which shows you the strength in depth. Darren Cole, Patrick McClean, Josh Kerr and Ally Gilchrist, they can all play centre half so it shows the strength we have in the squad.”