Monday 15 July 2019

Ireland U-21 star Neil Farrugia turns down England move to complete studies in UCD

Neil Farrugia celebrates after scoring in March’s UEFA European U-21 Championship qualifier against Luxembourg. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Neil Farrugia celebrates after scoring in March’s UEFA European U-21 Championship qualifier against Luxembourg. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Daniel McDonnell

Highly rated UCD winger Neil Farrugia has turned down the possibility of a move to England and agreed to join Shamrock Rovers.

Middlesbrough are the latest club to express an interest in the talented Ireland U-21 international, but Farrugia will spurn all offers and stay in Ireland for at least another year.

The 20-year-old is academically gifted and committed to finishing a degree in Biomedical Science in UCD.

He turned down a transfer to QPR last year and recently spent time on trial with the Manchester City U-23 side.

However, Farrugia has opted to challenge for domestic honours with Rovers while fitting his studies around the increased demands of full-time football. The player will graduate next summer and sees that as the ideal window to move overseas.

He is expected to formally sign an 18-month deal with the Hoops, but there are no plans to insert a clause that would facilitate a quick exit at the 12-month point.

Bohemians also tried to bring in the left-sided player, with an understanding that they would not stand in his way if the right offer came in.

His UCD colleague Gary O'Neill will also be joining the title-chasing Tallaght side as Stephen Bradley looks to strengthen his squad. The long-serving midfielder has finished his degree at Belfield.

Ex-Dundalk striker David McMillan is on their shopping list, too. He's under contract to St Johnstone but is considering his options after failing to make inroads there, or on loan with Hamilton.

Europa League football with Rovers was attractive to Farrugia, although he faces a race against time to be fit for the first-round tie with Norwegian team SK Brann as he is currently sidelined with the hamstring injury that ruled him out of the Toulon Tournament.

Plans

Farrugia was a big part of Stephen Kenny's plans for that competition, having started and scored in March's European Championship qualifier with Luxembourg.

His performances with UCD had already grabbed the attention of Premier League champions City and he spent a week training with the Manchester club's U-23s along with team-mate Liam Scales.

Preston scouted Farrugia and Middlesbrough made enquiries in recent weeks with a view to stepping up the chase. He has also been on Leeds United's radar.

But the player is determined to finish his education. Farrugia secured 600 points in his Leaving Cert and wants to see out his studies before throwing his energies into football.

He has a French father and lived in Paris until moving to Dublin when he was seven.

Farrugia also qualifies to play for Spain and Malta through grandparents and was approached by the Maltese association last year. That advance was rejected and he says his dream is to play for Ireland.

UCD are facing a difficult summer window with Scales in demand and attacker Conor Davis likely to leave for Derry City.

Irish Independent

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