Toye says Donegal not resting on laurels

PAUL HEARTY has reason to remember Christy Toye.

If it wasn't for Toye's calm finish to a free-flowing Donegal move in the first half of last year's All-Ireland semi-final, the Crossmaglen custodian might have gone through the summer, unbeaten.

As it is, seven out of eight clean sheets isn't a bad record for your debut championship season. Overlooked all too often is the contribution of the man who beat him. Toye was playing his second championship for Donegal last year. By now, he is well-known.

Toye is still U-21 and when Brian McEniff talks of the bright future in Donegal football, Toye is one of the shining lights of that plan. His turn of pace complements their half-forward line perfectly, alongside the work-rate of Brian Roper and the skills of Michael Hegarty.

Despite this, Toye is bemused when fielding questions about his speed.

"Up until I was 16, I wouldn't have been called fast. Then, all of a sudden, I could sprint," he says. "It is a nice weapon to have, but it is just one part of my game and one part of our game. There are others we want to develop. People think because we beat Tyrone so well last time, that we will be resting on our laurels.

"That's not the case. We know what Armagh can do. They showed against Monaghan that they are as hungry as ever this year. And they have had the upper hand on us in recent years, so we need to sort that out."

Toye played in his first Ulster final against Armagh two years ago. The 19-year-old half-forward marked his debut with two wonderful scores and gave the much-vaunted Armagh half-back line a difficult time.

Since then, he has been a constant feature of every Donegal team at U21 and senior level as well as starring in Sligo IT's Sigerson success with his county team-mates Eamon McGee and Paul Durcan. He also found time to help St Michaels to the All-Ireland intermediate final.

"It has been a tiring year so far, I did feel, just before the championship, a bit of a burn-out because I was playing so much football. But once the championship starts and you are playing for Donegal again, that all disappears.

"If you look at it, Donegal teams were playing for a few years under the shadow of the '92 team. That was just the way it was, the '92 team cast a shadow on everything to do with football in the county. We have come out of that.

"This team, we are all that much younger and, Jim McGuinness aside, nobody was involved in the '92 side. I think that helps, and it helps too, the sort of atmosphere Brian has been able to build with this team, there is tremendous togetherness in the team. It is like a club team."

Toye thinks Donegal owe Armagh one at this stage. "We do. A couple of breaks didn't go our way in that Ulster final, you look at things like that when you are watching the match. But we are a much more experienced team now, and we love playing in Croke Park."

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