Wednesday 21 March 2018

'All the lads were so supportive. They were all down at the funeral' - Devin Toner

Devin Toner of Ireland during a press conference in the Sandton Sun Hotel
Devin Toner of Ireland during a press conference in the Sandton Sun Hotel
Devin Toner during a press conference in Johannesburg Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

At the end of his post-match interview with the host broadcasters last Saturday, Devin Toner pointed to the sky and dedicated Ireland's win over Saturday to his father Peter who passed away three weeks ago.

It was a touching moment for a player who understandably struggled to come to terms with his day job when he returned to camp, but managed to compose himself enough to put in a man-of-the-match display as his side made history at Cape Town.

Despite his heartbreaking loss, there was never a question that Toner would not board the plane to South Africa, his family wouldn't hear of it.

And he has been heartened by the way his international team-mates have rallied around him in his time of need.

"It happened a week before we were due to leave and the whole family were saying, 'You're definitely still going,' so I didn't really have an option to be honest," he said at the team's base in Sandton.

"It was hard for me to get my head around it at the start, getting back into things and then at the start of the week, I wasn't feeling great but then as we started getting closer to the Test match, it kind of clicked that this was a massive Test match, with history to be made.

"It was there for us, so I kind of got my head around it and started getting up for it. The longer the week went on, the closer we got to the game,the more I got into it.

Man of the match Devin Toner congratulates Paddy Jackson after the historic victory over South Africa in Cape Town yesterday. Photo: Billy Stickland/INPHO

"One-hundred per cent, the lads were great. It was actually good to have a distraction. You had to come straight into camp and get your head around calls.

"With so many lads around, you're talking and it's a bit of a distraction. But all the lads were so supportive. They were all down at the funeral as well."

This is a big month in the life of Toner who turns 30 on June 29 and gets married two days later to long-term girlfriend Mary Scott.

He's already been part of the first Irish team to win on South African soil and now he is targeting another piece of history by following New Zealand and the Lions as the only teams to win three-Test series in the Rainbow nation.

"It would be unbelievable if we did it, unbelievable," he said.

"It's going to be a huge challenge for us. It's possible and we always knew it was possible, and we're going to do everything we can to do it.

"Before the tour, one win would have been enough but now we're really going to go after it. We have the bit between our teeth and we're really going to go after it this week.

"They might just try and revert to their old type, and just try and smash us really, which sometimes can work against them."

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