Thursday 20 June 2019

'He puts confidence in players' - Farrugia backing Stephen Kenny's Ireland U21s to deliver against Brazil

Neil Farrugia of Republic of Ireland during the UEFA European U21 Championship Qualifier Group 1 match between Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg in Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Neil Farrugia of Republic of Ireland during the UEFA European U21 Championship Qualifier Group 1 match between Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg in Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

UCD winger Neil Farrugia should be back in France today preparing for a Toulon Tournament semi-final with Brazil. Instead, he will have to settle for watching in a friend's house.

But the Ireland U21 international is certain that Stephen Kenny will be encouraging his young team to embrace the challenge with a positive mindset.

Farrugia - who lived in Paris until he was 7 - was earmarked as an important member of Kenny's squad after starring and scoring in the European Championship qualifying win over Luxembourg in March.

A badly timed hamstring injury ruled him out of the Toulon experience, and the left winger admits he has curtailing his social media activity over the past fortnight to avoid jealousy.

His target is to be fit for the Euro qualifiers later this year.

From his experience of working with Kenny, he is sure that the manager will encourage his group to believe they can beat the South Americans with a forward thinking approach.

"That's the way he wants to play," said Farrugia, who was a guest on the new LOI Weekly Podcast. "He's not going to change this ideas just because it's Brazil, which is why I think it's great to work with him.

"I think what's great about Stephen is that he puts confidence in players and encourages them to push themselves. As an attacking player, I just want to work with Stephen. He wants us to play with width, and with wingers. I've enjoyed every minute of training."

Farrugia was joined on the podcast by Ciaran Kilduff, a scorer of key goals for Dundalk during their epic European run in 2016.

The Shelbourne striker has a fair idea of what the message will be from the Irish boss to his players.

"I guarantee he has them believing they are going to do something," said Kilduff.

"We never played any team in any game that we didn't think we were capable of beating. He will have them thinking there's a way to beat them and they will go for it. It might work and it might not work. He's true to his beliefs.

"I do think they are up against it. It's a Brazil U22 squad, and it's a young Irish team. But I do believe it's going to be a fascinating game."

Kilduff has always enjoyed a good relationship with Kenny and is confident he can make a successful transition to the senior job given time. He admits that the 47-year-old has different characteristics to the managers that a lot of English based players would be accustomed to.

"He's very unique in his mannerisms and how he motivates players," continued Kilduff, "He's less ruthless. Don't get me wrong, he's still ruthless in other ways. He will make decisions.

"But maybe the stereotypical manager in England is hard, cold and ruthless. Stephen doesn't have that nature. He's a more reserved and relaxed individual but it doesn't take anything away from his ambition and quality as a manager. He's a genuinely nice man, and he gets the best out of the players he has."

Farrugia also spoke about his recent trial with Manchester City on the podcast. He spent a week with their U23 squad along with UCD colleague and fellow U21 cap Liam Scales.

The in-demand player has transfer options both home and abroad and is determined to complete his Biomedical Science degree in UCD which finishes up next summer. He got 600 points in his Leaving Cert and discussed the value of education in his family. Farrugia also discussed turning down an approach from Malta to play for their U21 team - he qualifies through the grandparent rule.

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