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23rd Jun 2023

Future Ireland international catches the eye in frantic Dublin Derby

Rory Fleming

Neil Farrugia

The 24-year-old has already been included in a number of Stephen Kenny’s training squads.

Bohemians were the League of Ireland’s runaway leaders for the opening portion of this year’s campaign, with Shamrock Rovers enduring a six-game winless run at the outset of the season.

However, now 22 games in, the fortunes of these two sides could not be more different, as Stephen Bradley’s men held on for a draw in Dalymount Park, maintaining their 8 point lead over their Dublin rivals.

A game of little quality in the opening half, the Tallaght side played like a team knowing that a win was not a necessity given their pre-game six-point cushion atop of the table.

In truth, never leaving second gear, the game appeared to be over three minutes into the second half as Rovers wing-back Neil Farrugia glanced home a header to put the visitors in front.

It took just a further six minutes before Estonian international Mark Poom rifled home the sweetest of left-footed strikes from outside the area to double the defending Champion’s lead.

Although, a superb Jonathan Afolabi strike saw the hosts pull one back with just over 20 minutes remaining, before James Clarke equalised five minutes later, sparking hope amongst the home crowd that a rare victory over Rovers could be on the cards.

An end-to-end final quarter of an hour ensued, which ultimately saw both sides claim what was a deserved point.

Neil FarrugiaNeil Farrugia celebrates scoring the opening goal of Friday evening’s Dublin derby. (Credit: Sportsfile)

A future Ireland international-in-waiting:

In a week which saw calls from fans for the return of teammate Jack Byrne to the Ireland fold, it was the rampaging Neil Farrugia who would have caught Stephen Kenny’s eye this evening.

A player clearly already in the Irish manager’s thoughts, Farrugia was included in the most recent extended training squad prior to the Greece and Gibraltar European qualifiers.

Playing in a back 3 system for Rovers, akin to that deployed by Kenny for Ireland, Farrugia is an all-action wing-back capable of playing on either side of the pitch.

Standing at 6’1ft, the former UCD prospect has blossomed in recent seasons under the stewardship of Stephen Bradley, overcoming a number of injury issues which had threatened to derail his rampant career progression.

And following what was a drab first 45, it was the 24-year-old who sparked life into a frantic second half with his glancing header three minutes after the break.

Making a coy front-post dart ahead of the unaware Bohemians defence, Farrugia perfectly met the well-placed cross of substitute Sean Kavanagh to put Rovers in front.

Although going on to let a two goal advantage slip, Farrugia’s athleticism was still on show for those in attendance to witness, as he simultaneously marshalled the Bohs left-hand side whilst providing an outlet on the break for the league leaders.

With left-wing back a position of particular struggle in recent games for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland side, Farrugia’s current vein of form domestically may see him finally edge his way into the squad ahead of September’s games against the Dutch and French.

Callum O’Dowda struggled in Greece, whilst the 34-year-old stalwart James McClean is surely not the long-term answer for Kenny.

So, Irish football fans take heed, and remember the name.

Neil Farrugia, a future Ireland international-in-waiting.

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