Aston Villa youngster Kevin Toner sets out Ireland ambitions

The Republic of Ireland Under-19 defender has earned his Premier League debut and first top-flight start over the past two weeks after breaking into Villa's senior squad.

After getting his first taste of Premier League football over the past two weeks, Aston Villa defender Kevin Toner has told AVTV how he has his sights set on pushing himself into the Republic of Ireland picture over the coming seasons.

Toner, 19, joined Villa as a scholar from Irish outfit Home Farm in 2012 and has since risen through the ranks to establish himself as one of the club’s top prospects.

The County Meath native, who can play at centre-half or left-back, has been arguably the Under-21 side’s most consistent performer over the past two campaigns and was rewarded with his first-team debut last weekend, replacing the injured Micah Richards at half-time of the 4-2 home defeat to Southampton.

He was subsequently handed his first Premier League start in Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Watford as part of a three-man central defence and gave an excellent account of himself despite the result, even coming close to scoring in the second half with a set-piece header which went just inches wide.

The Republic of Ireland Under-19 international is now aiming to become a more regular fixture in the line-up when Villa begin life in the Championship next season, and further down the line, he also hopes to join Ciaran Clark in the senior national side.

“It’s 100 percent my long-term ambition,” Toner told AVTV before the Watford game. “Hopefully now I can try to make an impression here and then push for that Ireland call-up.

“I’ve played a good bit all the way up and for the Under-19s the last time through. There’s a new campaign for them starting in September so hopefully I’ll be able to get a shout.”

Toner’s Villa debut against Southampton also saw him match up against compatriot Shane Long, who grabbed a goal and an assist in the first half, and the promising stopper admits to being somewhat starstruck on the afternoon.

“It’s a dream. He’s one of our best strikers and going to the Euros,” he told AVTV on Long. “At home he’s like a hero so to come on and mark someone like that is different ball game altogether.

“I was just delighted to even be involved to be honest. My main aim now is just to try to stay up with the boys as much as possible and do everything I can to be a part of the team.

“It makes you more hungry. You want to be up with them and you want to be going out in front of 30,000 people at Villa Park and hear them cheering.”

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