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Meath man in line to play in historic Copa del Rey tie against La Liga side

Kevin Toner could feature for La Nucia against Elche, who ended Real Madrid’s winning run on Wednesday.

image The La Nucia team, with Kevin Toner second from left in the back row. Source: La Nucia CF

WHEN THE SECOND round of fixtures in Spain’s premier cup competition takes place this week, one of the teams aiming to cause an upset could have an Irishman in defence.

La Nucia, who have reached this stage of the Copa del Rey for the first time in their history, will play host to La Liga side Elche on Wednesday.

They booked their place on 16 December with a 1-0 win over fellow Segunda B (third tier) club Calahorra, during which Kevin Toner was introduced as a substitute.

League of Ireland followers will be familiar with Toner from his time at St Patrick’s Athletic, for whom he made 59 appearances during a two-year spell that came to an end following the conclusion of the 2019 season.

kevin-toner-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Kevin Toner celebrates after scoring against Derry City in May 2019. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Having relocated to Spain shortly after leaving Richmond Park, the 24-year-old centre-back was signed by La Nucia – who are based in the Valencian Community on the south-eastern coast – in September. 

A native of Ashbourne in Co. Meath, Toner and his team-mates will face a difficult task when they welcome Elche to the Estadio Camilo Cano.

However, the former Republic of Ireland U19 international has experience of testing himself against top-class opposition from his time in England, where he spent five-and-a-half years on Aston Villa’s books.

He made four Premier League appearances as a 19-year-old during the 2015-16 season, coming up against attacking players of the calibre of Sadio Mane (Southampton), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) and Odion Ighalo (Watford).

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aston-villa-v-southampton-barclays-premier-league-villa-park Toner, during his time at Aston Villa, tangling with Southampton's Dusan Tadic. Source: Paul Harding

Toner, who gained further senior experience with loan spells at Kidderminster Harriers, Walsall, Bradford City and Stevenage, left Villa to join St Pat’s ahead of the 2018 League of Ireland Premier Division campaign.

He helped the Inchicore outfit to back-to-back fifth-place finishes, as well as featuring in a Europe League tie against Swedish outfit IFK Norrköping.

Although Elche are not one of the heavyweights of Spanish club football, they showed their capability by putting a dent in Real Madrid’s title bid last Wednesday.

Zinedine Zidane’s side had been on a run of six consecutive victories in all competitions before they were held to a 1-1 draw by Elche, who sit in 17th place.

esp-elche-cf-v-real-madrid-la-liga-santander Real Madrid's Karim Benzema under pressure from Josema of Elche. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Kevin Toner may not be the only man providing some Irish interest in the second round of the Copa del Rey, with Getafe scheduled to travel to Cordoba on Tuesday.

For Getafe, 17-year-old midfielder John Joe Patrick Finn – who was born in Spain to an Irish father and Cameroonian mother – could make his seventh appearance since being handed a first-team debut by the club last month.

About the author:

Paul Dollery

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