EOIN Toal admits the pain of play-off final defeat has been hard to shift this summer, even with the distraction of international football.

A few weeks on from Wembley, the vast majority of the Wanderers squad are still keeping a low profile and digesting the disappointment before they start all over again with pre-season training at the end of the month.

For Toal the workload has not yet stopped, and he could make a 58th appearance of the campaign if he is selected in Northern Ireland’s final friendly against Andorra in Murcia tonight.

The Bolton defender has been training with Michael O’Neill’s squad for the last week and played 45 testing minutes in a 5-1 defeat against Spain at the weekend.

Though preparing for the forthcoming Nations League campaign has been at the forefront of his mind during the international break, Toal could not help but reflect on the agony of missing out on promotion with Wanderers.

“It was disappointing, to be honest,” he said. “We set ourselves a goal to get promoted out of League One and, unfortunately, we failed.

“On the final day, nothing went right. We don’t know why. It still hurts, but being away with the international squad, I’ve been able to clear my mind and focus on our games.

“As soon as we play the internationals, I have a few more days off, and then, it will be back to Bolton to get going again in pre-season.”

Toal continues to cut his teeth at international level and should he feature against Andorra, would win his seventh senior cap. But the 25-year-old says he is learning a lot from some of the more experienced heads in a generally youthful squad, not least centre-back partner Jonny Evans, who picked up his 107th cap against Spain.

“I just really enjoy playing for Northern Ireland, for my country. It’s always a proud moment,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “It’s a young squad, but we still have experience, especially around me in my position on the pitch.

“I learn a lot from Jonny. He has had such a good career at the highest level in England. You always get wee pointers from him, he’s brilliant in that sense, and I have learnt a lot already.

“I appreciate that I can improve my game, especially at international level. Being away with the team, I feel I am improving because the standard is so high. I love learning every day and learning from more experienced players like Jonny, Corry (Evans) and Josh (Magennis).”

Though his team was soundly beaten by Spain, manager O’Neill insisted that the experience of playing against some of Europe’s top players would be advantageous for players like Toal, who operate outside of the highest level in English football.

And the Wanderers man says he is picking up valuable information all the time on the international scene which can help him return to Bolton a better player.

“Michael called me in and gave me my debut, so that is something I’ll never forget, and he’s been brilliant with me,” he added.

“Playing League One and playing internationals are two different types of football. He’s been giving me all the advice he can, and it’s been really helpful.”