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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Dave Winter/INPHO Shamrock Rovers’ Neil Farrugia takes on Michael Ngadeu of Gent.
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'I don’t ever want to think: I’m happy where I am now, I’m happy with how I’m playing'
Shamrock Rovers’ Neil Farrugia says he will always strive to improve.

SHAMROCK ROVERS’ Neil Farrugia is experienced enough now to know that you can never take anything for granted in football.

The 23-year-old emerged as a player of great potential during his time at UCD, training with Man City’s U23 team and attracting significant interest from across the water.

Yet injuries since then have curtailed his progress. Largely as a result of these issues, he has never really been a regular starter for the Hoops since joining the club from the Students three years ago.

But there have been some encouraging signs this season. Farrugia is into double figures in terms of appearances, and while the majority have been from the bench, he has accrued some momentum of late.

Farrugia put in an impressive display, netting a brace in last week’s 5-1 win over Finn Harps.

It was not enough for him to start their Europa Conference League tie in Gent, but the wing-back made an impression after his 76th-minute introduction, with one excellent individual run causing panic in the hosts’ defence.

Is he now starting to feel confident that his injury woes are fully behind him?

“I don’t think I ever want to be satisfied with where I am at the moment,” he tells reporters. “I just want to keep pushing. I don’t ever want to think ‘I’m happy where I am now, I’m happy with how I’m playing’. I just want to keep getting better and improving. I got two goals to my name in the last game and I just want to keep that going.”

Despite the European setback, Rovers are unlikely to need much motivation today, as they prepare for a crucial FAI Cup quarter-final against Premier Division rivals Derry City.

Farrugia will be hoping to start after missing out on playing from the outset in Belgium, while Stephen Bradley is expected to rotate his squad amid an intense schedule of matches.

“To be fair, Skip [Ronan Finn] has been brilliant so I didn’t really expect much and, at the same time, there are so many games coming up. All players will be used so I’m not really thinking about that. I’m just thinking of what the gaffer has been asking of me and that’s it really.

“We’ve got such a strong squad with strong players in a lot of positions so it’s really good for the team and a good headache for the manager at the same time.”

Derry, of course, will be hoping to capitalise on the extra demands placed on Rovers due to their European commitments, but Farrugia has no complaints about this state of affairs.

“100%. But we knew this coming in. We’re well conditioned. I think we’ve worked really hard to get into a position where we’re fit and we’ve got a strong squad and are able to rotate players so we’re happy. This is what we wanted in the first place so we’ll take it.”

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On concerns surrounding tiredness, he adds: “To be fair, it’s more about the hunger, the hunger to play is always going to be there. We want, as a squad, to play two games a week. It’s much better for us.

“I’ve always found that the intensity in European games changes. Sometimes League of Ireland can be harder. It’s just the way games go sometimes. Sometimes European games can be a bit easier. I don’t know, not easy but physically I mean. It just changes and it’s just about adapting.”

Farrugia was born in Paris to an Irish mother and French father but has lived most of his life in Dublin.

He consequently is also eligible to represent a couple of teams at international level, including Malta, who expressed interest in him as a teenager, but the player instead has represented Ireland up to U21 level.

There have not been any approaches since then and Farrugia adds: “I haven’t really thought about it if I’m honest. I’m just thinking about Rovers where I am at the moment, coming back from injury. I just want to be playing, that’s the most important.”

But does Irish-born teammate Roberto Lopes’ memorable experiences with Cape Verde give him food for thought in that regard? 

“Yeah, true, exactly. 100%. It’s a very good point. It is a possibility I guess.”

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