Injury has consigned Neil Farrugia to a spectator role for most of his time with Shamrock Rovers, but he’s now dreaming of a future with group stage football in it.
he ex-Ireland U-21 international has been luckless since joining the Hoops, yet he is finally starting to enjoy something of a clear run and was able to come off the bench and play his part in Thursday’s Europa League clash with Shkupi of North Macedonia .
A 3-1 win for Stephen Bradley’s side puts them in an extremely strong position going into Tuesday’s decider in Skopje. Negotiating that test will guarantee them a spot in the Europa Conference League group stages and give them a free shot at making the Europa League equivalent.
Farrugia is optimistic because he feels that Rovers can produce a better performance in the return, echoing comments from Bradley who conceded there was a drop-off in the second half in Tallaght that allowed Shkupi to find a rhythm.
“What they showed at the end knocked our heads that we really need to go up another level here,” said the 23-year-old.
“And while I don’t think we were great on Thursday, if we perform to our level, we’ll beat them. We just need to be at our level on Tuesday.”
Bradley has warned against adopting a defensive attitude, pointing out that could play in Shkupi’s hands and Farrugia was on message.
“I think when we play our best, we control the game,” he continued. “Anything less than that and we could be in trouble, so we need to go there and try and control the game, keep the ball and keep attacking. Because if we get a goal then, it kills the game, doesn’t it? I’m delighted to be in this position. After doing my calf, I started off this year with a small hamstring and then doing my calf earlier on, a few weeks ago now. I’m delighted to be back in a really important part of the season.”
Bradley does expect to be without Chris McCann for the return leg, but he is hopeful that Jack Byrne will be fit.
Meanwhile, former Rovers target Jonathan Afolabi has signed for Bohs after his release from Celtic. The former Irish underage international has enjoyed mixed luck on four different loan stints in Scotland, but is still viewed as a player with high potential and will strengthen Keith Long’s forward options.