SHAMROCK Rovers manager Stephen Bradley says fans will see the best of Neil Farrugia this season following an injury-interrupted spell to date.
The Ireland Under-21 winger signed for the Hoops from UCD, alongside midfielder Gary O’Neill, midway through last season after impressing for the Students.
Though he played a part as a substitute in Rovers’ FAI Cup final win over Dundalk, the 20-year-old Blackrock native was always being looked at for a 2020 breakthrough.
The Hoops kick off their league campaign against fierce rivals Bohemians on Saturday afternoon in front of a sell-out crowd at Dalymount Park.
“When we got him, we knew the injury was serious,” Bradley said. “We knew we’d have to take our time with him. We could have rushed him back sooner last year but we felt the type of injury it was and the type of player he is, it wasn’t worth the risk.
“We were always looking at him for this year. He’s come back for pre-season with no issues and hasn’t missed a minute’s training. We’ll see Neil at the best this year.”
Though a winger by trade, Farrugia may see gametime in the left wing-back slot this season as Sean Kavanagh looks set to miss the first two months of the season with a knee injury.
Former Northern Ireland international Danny Lafferty is a more than able deputy in the same position and Bradley will look to make use of his star-studded squad.
The Jobstown man has made just two judicious additions to his squad as they look to wrest back to the league title for the first time in a decade.
Ireland under-21 defender Liam Scales has arrived from UCD and full-back Rhys Marshall joined for a fee after impression with Glenavon over the past number of seasons.
And Bradley insists it has always been quality over quantity for the Hoops, who finished 11 points behind Dundalk last season after leading for much of the first half of the season.
“Yeah, we did Liam and Rhys really early and we’re happy with that. I feel the squad is really strong from last year. I think we’ve added really well, it’s not numbers, we’re not looking to add numbers, it’s quality. We felt that once we’d them two, it was a case of waiting until the window closed.
“We were speaking to a few players abroad. They obviously have options and you have to wait and see where it lies when the window closes. Now that’s happened, we get to work.”
The FAI Cup win has further underlined the squad’s potential but Bradley insists it’s in the past now and all their focus is on the league kick-off.
“You have to win big games, big competitions to help you get over the line. I think it was very important we did that.
“I think we also have to understand that it’s gone. It was in November – it’s done, forget about it. What we learnt that day, what we got out of that day, was understanding how to do it in big games.
“We have that now, you can see that in pre-season, but the cup win is done now, it’s gone. We need to focus on Bohs.”