Joe Kernan: Armagh hero Toal’s passion for sport shines through with special night
When Armagh won the All Ireland football title in 2002 John Toal was an integral part of the team, a wholehearted player who made a huge contribution to what was a memorable year for the Orchard County.
He formed a very durable midfield partnership with Paul McGrane which served Armagh well during the most successful period in their history.
Sadly, John’s playing career was subsequently brought to a premature because of a serious leg injury sustained while playing in the Ulster final against Tyrone at Croke Park in 2005.
John was a player who revelled in big matches, never failing to show his full ability and unrelenting commitment and he certainly left a void in the Armagh side when he was forced to hang up his boots.
Yet even though he was forced to call time on his involvement with the county John did not let this dilute his interest in nor his commitment to gaelic football.
He has remained a driving force within the progressive Keady Dwyers club and in this capacity he has organised a special match for this Saturday night when the 2002 Armagh side will face a Rest of Ireland team at McGleenon Memorial Park, Keady (7.30pm) in a gala fund-raising event.
Like many players, John has always had a great affinity with his club and is ever ready to encourage young players and give a lead in off-field ventures.
He is extremely popular in his local area and the manner in which he accepted his fate when he was advised not to play any more spoke volumes for his strength of character.
While I will be unable to become involved in Saturday night’s event because Galway will be playing Wexford in the All Ireland Qualifiers that afternoon — Kieran McGeeney is also ruled out as Kildare will be facing Leitrim — I nonetheless applaud John’s enterprise in making this game possible.
It is to be hoped that may will support John’s venture on Saturday night — in doing so they will be giving valuable financial aid to a club that is going places.