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First Team News

Shamrock Rovers today confirmed the signing of midfielder Gary O’Neill and winger Neil Farrugia.

Speaking about the signings Hoops’ Head Coach Stephen Bradley said:

“We’ve been speaking to Gary for quite some time and we’re delighted to get him in. He fits how we play, he’s a good age and he has some really good attributes. We believe that we can improve him and we’re looking forward to seeing him playing for the club.

I said from day one that we have goals from all over the pitch in this team and Neil and Gary will just add to that. They’ve shown that they can create and score goals and I’m sure they’ll bring that to us.

Both of them, once we sat down with them and gave them our plan of where we see them here, they were very keen to get it done. It was great that both were very interested and wanted to get it done quickly and thankfully we did.

Neil is very athletic, quick and direct. He’s different to what we have currently in the squad and a player we’ve liked for quite some time. We’ve known about other interest in him but we’re delighted that he sees his football at Shamrock Rovers. He’s only young, he’s done well so far and there’s still so much more to come from him. Hopefully we can see that here at this club.”

We spoke with both players to get their thoughts on signing for Rovers:

We started with Gary:

Welcome to Rovers, how happy are you to sign for The Hoops?

Gary: “I’m delighted. It’s been a long couple of months waiting for it to get over the line. When I knew Rovers were in for me I put all my focus and concentration into making sure it got over the line so I’m delighted to be here.”
When did you become aware of Rovers interest and when did you first speak to Stephen Bradley?
Gary: “I met the club about 2/3 weeks before the mid-season break, to get a feel for Stephen, the manager and Stephen McPhail. I met the two of them at the training ground and I was blown away with what I saw because it was so impressive. Since then, I just kept in touch with the club, and through my representatives and them there’s been negotiations but I’m just delighted to get it all done.”
How much do you reflect on your early career in England and how much do you think you’ve progressed at UCD?
Gary: “England was different, it was very stop-start for me. I was at Wolves at such a young age and probably took it for granted at the time, and I got released with a year left on my contract, Then I went to Port Vale and probably matured quicker than I thought I would because I was training with a men’s team. It was a big wake up call. When I came home I fell on my feet with UCD, doing my education and captaining the club for 4 years, and that gave me great maturity as well, but this is probably the biggest club I’m at in my career in terms of coming to a club that’s so demanding and wants to win silverware, I’m looking forward to it.”
Is that part of the thinking to try and come to a club to prove yourself at a higher level and play in Europe as well?
Gary: “Yeah I think it was the perfect move for me at the perfect time. I was coming to the end at UCD, maybe I over stayed a year, there’s always the question of when you should leave UCD, but I’ve no regrets with that, now it’s time for me to prove myself now, I’m out of my comfort zone now and I’m looking forward to being tested every week.”
After you played Rovers in Tallaght you said you had never seen anything like our midfield and it was the first time in 5 years you had to let the other team have the ball, you couldn’t get near Rovers, so you were very impressed?
Gary: “Yeah, that was a strange one, at UCD we’re very open and we like to match the big as big as possible, but for the first time in 5 years I was there we came in and the manager just said shut up shop, let’s keep this more respectable as such. We couldn’t get near them, they’re a brilliant side. I’m looking forward to learning off the current players they have. Greg Bolger’s been brilliant this year, Jack Byrne’s an Irish international so for me to working with players like that, I’m quite proud.” 
You mentioned the competition in midfield, there’s quite a lot, do you welcome that challenge to try and play your way into the team?
Gary: “Yeah of course I do, I’m under no illusions, it’s not going to be easy me coming here, it’s not my thinking at all. I want to be challenged, I want to be challenged every day in training, I want to be challenging for the jersey, and with the players they have, we mentioned there, we could mention 5 more, Dylan Watts, Aaron McEneff, players like that, competition in midfield is so strong but the manager obviously saw something in me that he likes, and I’m going to try and bring that to the team the best I can.”
How would you describe yourself as a player?
Gary: “I’m a technical player, I like to get attacks started as opposed to being in the final third. I like to give the ball to the attacking players and let them do their flair, so I’m a technical player, quite calm and obviously working hard is a given.”
You’re not eligible to play against Dundalk unfortunately but how much are you looking forward to making your first appearance as soon as possible?
Gary: “Ah I can’t wait, I’ve only played in Tallaght once, the atmosphere that night was brilliant and when Aaron [McEneff] scored that goal very late, the place went mental. It wasn’t great for me on the night but it was unbelievable seeing that. I think I’m eligible to play on Friday week for the game against Sligo, so I’m looking forward to being involved in that, in whatever capacity we’ll see, but I’m buzzing to get going.”
Is it nice to be joined as well by one of your UCD team mates, Neil, will that help you settle in a little bit easier?
Gary: “Yeah definitely, his reputation is phenomenal now being involved with the Ireland Under 21’s and so much interest from other clubs, but he has decided to come here because he wants the same thing as I do, he wants to challenge for silverware, and be at the most successful club in the country and it will probably make it easier for me and I’m happy to have him here.”

Player Profile: Gary O’Neill

Gary (24) began his career in England with Port Vale, Southport (on loan) and Hereford United before joining UCD in 2015. He played in their Europa League campaign that season. The following season Gary was again the lynchpin in UCD’s midfield and finished top scorer in the First Division with 13 goals. His nine goals helped the Students to promotion as champions in 2018 and the Kerry-born midfielder has scored twice in 19 appearances in this year’s Premier Division.

Interview with Neil Farrugia:

Welcome to Shamrock Rovers, how does it feel to join the club?
Neil: “It feels unbelievable, I can’t wait to get going, playing in Tallaght Stadium, in front of the crowd, it’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
There was a lot of interest in you so ultimately why did you choose Rovers?
Neil: “Rovers is a club that has one of the greatest histories in Ireland, and the twice I’ve played here in Tallaght, I’ve just thought that the atmosphere has been electric and it’s somewhere I wanted to be playing every week, week in week out, in front of a crowd this big. I think Rovers overall are a really good team. I wanted to join a club that had ambition to win cups and trophies so that’s why I signed.”
You mentioned ambition there, is that part of the deal, your eagerness to play at a higher level and play in the Europa League as well?
Neil: “That’s exactly it, I think it’s time now for me to step up to professional football and I think Rovers is the right step forward, and I’ve got ambition for myself but also for the team to win trophies, to compete in Europe at the highest level.”
You definitely stood out for Rovers fans in the 2 games against UCD this season, but how would you describe yourself as a player?
Neil: “I think I’m a versatile player, I can play on the wing, I give 100% every game and that’s how I like to see myself going into games, and if that’s enough, then so be it.”
You already have a goal to your name at Tallaght Stadium for the Ireland U21’s, did you enjoy coming here as well with UCD?
Neil: “Yeah it was unbelievable. I know it was playing in front of a crowd against us, but still you could feel the atmosphere within the stadium. The crowds chanting, probably against us at the time, but that’s why I joined Rovers, because I want to be apart of that every week in front of a crowd so big and so great.”
It’s obviously important for you to complete your studies, so was that a factor in your decision to juggle full time football and finish your degree at UCD?
Neil: “I’ve got 1 year left in my degree, but I think Rovers logistically is very handy for me, but also I think I’ll be able to juggle both, it just takes organisation, but being able to put myself on the pitch and give 100% will be no problem.”
A hamstring injury kept you out of the Toulon tournament; how’s that coming along and are you raring to go to make your debut in the coming weeks?
Neil: “Yeah I am. Hamstring injuries are a bit of a tough one. It came across sudden, maybe due to fatigue, but it’s a bit of a step back, going to training every day and wanting to be part of training but not being able to just yet so it is a bit tough, but it’s just one of those things where I just get my head down, do my rehab and conditioning so that when I’m back, I’m back raring to go and be my best.”
You have Gary O’Neill joining at the same time, and you have something in common with Joel Coustrain in that you have a French father
Neil: “Yeah I was chatting to him, he said he hasn’t got a word of French but I do! But also I think we both have grandmothers from Spain as well!”

Player Profile: Neil Farrugia

Neil played underage football with Belvedere and joined UCD in 2015, making his senior debut at Cabinteely two years later. The pacey winger has scored twice in 26 starts and 8 sub appearances in two-and-a-half seasons with the Students which included a First Division title. Neil’s heritage qualifies him to play for France, Spain and Malta but he wants to play Ireland, scoring his first goal for the Under 21s in a European qualifier against Luxembourg at Tallaght Stadium in March.

Neil played underage football with Belvedere and joined UCD in 2015, making his senior debut at Cabinteely two years later. The pacey winger has scored twice in 26 starts and 8 sub appearances in two-and-a-half seasons with the Students which included a First Division title. Neil’s heritage qualifies him to play for France, Spain and Malta but he wants to play Ireland, scoring his first goal for the Under 21s in a European qualifier against Luxembourg at Tallaght Stadium in March.