The 19-year-old Irish defender made his Villa debut as a half-time substitute in Saturday's 4-2 home defeat.
While Aston Villa may have fallen to their 10th straight loss with Saturday’s 4-2 home defeat to Southampton, there was one clear positive for the supporters to take from the game.
Having been crying out for some of the club’s Under-21 starlets to be given a chance, they finally got their wish on the afternoon when Kevin Toner replaced the injured Micah Richards at half-time for his first-team debut.
The 19-year-old Irish centre-back, who previously enjoyed a month-long spell at National League side Kidderminster Harriers earlier this season, has been one of the development team’s star performers over the past two campaigns, and he showed his promise during the second period with an encouraging showing in the heart of the defence alongside Joleon Lescott.
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While he could not prevent the visitors from adding two goals, the left-footed stopper still looked like an upgrade over his defensive teammates and made a handful of crucial clearances to help prevent the scoreline from looking worse.
In total, the Republic of Ireland Under-19 international recorded two tackles, three clearances, two interceptions and won three duels during his 45-minute run-out, while he was also credit with the assist for Villa’s second goal after getting a slight touch on Jack Grealish’s low cross before it reached Ashley Westwood on the left-hand side of the box.
Whether the academy graduate will see any more playing time over the final three games of the season remains to be seen given caretaker manager Eric Black’s reluctance to throw the kids into the mix so far, but his recent first-team promotion suggests he has an excellent chance to earn some significant minutes in the Championship next term.
Villa are expected to overhaul their squad during the summer in preparation for life in the second tier, and while there will no doubt be a few battle-tested veterans brought on board, Toner and rookie teammates like Andre Green, Jordan Lyden, Niall Mason and Keinan Davis could all have big roles to play in the club’s bid to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.