From FAI Cup Final to Biomedical degree finals for Neil Farrugia

Sun, Jun 21 2020

Neil Farrugia during the 2019 FAI Cup Final Credit: Brian F Smyth (ETPhotos)

As the country emerges from lockdown, thankfully a bit quicker than the original five stage government plan, it should mean that Neil Farrugia and his Shamrock Rovers teammates will get back on the pitch quicker – and hopefully playing in front of spectators soon enough. 

It should also hopefully mean that Farrugia can enjoy his graduation from UCD rather than it being a virtual affair. 

Farrugia has been juggling his time at Shamrock Rovers since signing from UCD AFC last summer with the final year of his bachelor degree in Biomedical, Health & Life Sciences. The arrival of COVID-19 was a crisis for the country hitting all aspects of society - including the education sector.

For Farrugia it meant the cancelling of lectures but the work continued with assignments and his final exams. “You wouldn’t have wished it but it did give me a lot of time to study,” said Farrugia talking about the coronavirus crisis to Shamrock Rovers TV

“If we are talking about college, the whole lockdown was a blessing in disguise. When we did go into lockdown, all I did was study and do the (fitness) runs we were told to do. When it did come to my exams I felt grand, I wasn’t nervous. I felt ready for them as I had that time to study and get my assignments in. 

“My exam results are coming in a few weeks. In terms of graduation, I don’t know what is going to happen. I’ve seen a few tweets of people graduating in their robes in front of their laptops and it seems so fake!”

Before the lockdown with Rovers training in the morning, it meant Farrugia often had to play catch up on his lectures but all going well with his results he will be able to concentrate fully on football following the completion of his degree.

So instead of developing a simulation programme to examine the effect of disassortative mating from maternal effects in genetic studies (which was work he did as part of his degree), he will be examining beating left backs in the League of Ireland and in the Europa League qualifiers!

The player, who turned 21 last month, had to overcome a grade 3 hamstring tear that badly affected last season. It saw him missing out on playing in the under-21 Toulon Tournament under Stephen Kenny. After a long layoff, he was available for the final few Rovers games of the 2019 season, including a telling contribution off the bench in the FAI Cup final win over Dundalk. 

“It was very tough when I first came into Rovers with the injury. The type of injury that it was with your hamstring, it is tough to rehab. It isn’t a set rehab programme that works for every situation. It has to be tailored to your injury. It took the best part of five months to get back and going. 

“Mentally that was tough as I had just joined a new club and all I wanted to do was play. Having to do the rehab and watching the lads play, I was jealous. I stuck at it and in fairness to Tony McCarthy (Rovers physio) we worked quite hard together and in the end we managed to get me back.”

In just his fourth match for Rovers, he was picking up an FAI Cup winners medal in the penalty shoot-out win at Lansdowne Road. “It was nothing like I had ever experienced before. There were so many emotions. There was the pressure of the game but the sheer enjoyment of playing in the Aviva. 

“You couldn’t not enjoy it with what was at stake. I had never played in front of 30,000 people. When we did win it, it was mixed emotions - unbelievable but relief that we won the cup.”