Castlewellan, County Down born outside left Joe Toner represented Down at hurling and played Gaelic football for Castlewellan GAC. His football career began with Castlewellan in 1912, and he played for Whitehaven Athletic in 1913, Whitehaven Recreation in 1914, Annsborough in 1915 and St Peter’s Swifts in 1916 before joining Irish League Belfast United in January 1917. The club had played at the top level for the duration of the First World War but were to return to junior circles with the resumption of the Irish League-proper for the 1919-20 season. This made their players ripe pickings and cash-strapped First Division club Arsenal stepped in to take Toner to Highbury.
He made his Football League debut at Everton in October 1919, Toner put in an astounding performance for a novice, the Londoners defeating the Merseysiders 3-2. From there he retained his place in the first eleven for a ten game sequence but soon found himself sidelined and made 16 appearances in his debut season, scoring once.
Toner shared his duties on Arsenal’s left-wing with the likes of Jimmy Paterson and Samson Haden over the following few seasons. In 1921-22 he managed thirty League and FA Cup appearances. He won his first Ireland cap in a 1-1 draw against Wales in Belfast on 4th April 1922. His second cap came a year later, again against Wales, this time at Wrexham in a 3-0 victory. 1923-24 brought only three League appearances for Arsenal but two Ireland caps, including in a famous 2-1 win over England at Windsor Park in October 1923.
He became an Arsenal regular again in 1924-25 before being dropped after Arsenal were given a 5-0 hiding at home to Huddersfield Town. He also won four more Northern Ireland caps as an Arsenal player, before leaving to join St Johnstone in January 1926 after new Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman decided Toner wasn’t part of his plans. In total he played exactly 100 times for Arsenal (89 League appearances and 11 in the FA Cup), scoring six goals (all of them in the League). He became the first Saints player to win international recognition when capped against England in October 1926 and won the last of his 8 caps the following February in a 2-0 defeat to Scotland at Windsor Park.
A broken leg forced him to retire in 1927 after 2 goals in 29 appearances for The Saints, but he subsequently returned to Ireland and became a coach Coleraine, and on one occasion came out retirement to deputise in the side. He later returned to play amateur football for Castlewellan and Annsborough.
NB this photograph was taken prior to his final Ireland cap against Scotland at Windsor Park, Belfast on 26th February 1927.