It’s been a sweet 16 this week for St Johnston woman Tyler Toland.
Toland – who celebrated her 16th birthday on Tuesday – was the only female playing at the prestigious Galway Cup this week.
But the gifted midfielder took the tournament by storm.
Playing on the Kildrum Tigers side that claimed victory in the 2002 Premier Secition, beating Glentoran in the final at Drom, Toland was named as the Player of the Week.
“It was great to get it, but it’s a team game,” the modest Toland says.
“It was just good to win the Galway Cup.
“It was a very good standard. I was delighted when I was asked to go. It was an unbelievable week. I didn’t know what to expect from it.”
The Tigers team is looked after by her uncle Russell Porter and cousin Shane Porter. Toland has been playing for Sion Swifts in the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership.
Playing on boys’ teams is nothing new for Toland, though, and she is now set to return to line out with Maiden City in the National League A Division at Under-16 level next month.
She says: “Playing with the boys teams really helps me. I’ll play there as long as I can. It’s very physical, but I feel it’s doing me so much good.
“I’m taking it one season at a time here now.”
In the summer months, Toland signed for Sion and has had a good time at the Swifts, reaching the NI Cup semi-finals and winning the Foyle Cup.
She says: “Maiden City were away at a tournament and the organisers of that don’t let girls play. I play National League with Maiden City but I signed in the summer for Sion.
“I did the same thing last year. The standard is really good at Sion. It’s pretty physical and it’s a good experience playing seniors.”
Toland, a daughter of former Finn Harps star Maurice Toland, comes from a good sporting family. Her cousin Brett McGinty is a multiple Irish champion and European medalist in boxing, another cousin, Shane McGinty, is on the books of Ballinamallard United, while Shane Porter is with Irish League side Dergview and Russell had a spell at Institute in his time.
Toland is very much making her own name, though.
From an early age her talents were obvious and being the only girl in town at games doesn’t faze her in the slightest.
She says: “I’ve started to get used to it. I don’t mind it, to be honest. I get a few looks, but as soon as the whistle goes, everything is grand. I’m always a bit nervous when I show up and get off the bus with everyone looking at me, but when it starts it’s just a game of football.”
Toland was the Irish Under-16 Player of the Year for 2016. In the calendar year 2016, she played for all of the Under-15s, Under-16s and Under-17s at international level.
“I love the international game,” she says.
Earlier this year, she played every minute of the Under-17 Elite Qualifiers – wins over Hungary and Serbia as well as a draw with Scotland – and the same in the finals in the Czech Republic, though Ireland lost to England and Norway before drawing their final game against the Netherlands.
She says: “The standard was unbelievable. Seeing the likes of Norway and England playing, it was so different, the standard.”
This season, Toland will hope to play with Dave Bell’s Ireland Under-17s and Dave Connell’s Ireland Under-19s.
The Under-17s have qualifiers at the end of September in Bosnia. By then, the school term will be up and running again as Toland heads into fifth year at Deele College.
“The school are very good, letting me catch up when I’m away,” she says.
“It’s been a brilliant experience getting all over the world with Ireland. I have to go to Dublin a lot and it’s tough. It’s a big commitment, but it’s worth it in long run.”