University College Dublin Association Football Club
Prior to being relegated in 2014, for a long time UCD was the only university in Europe to field a team in their national first division.
However, despite being based around 3,500 km away from the Maltese National Stadium, UCD have a connection to the small Mediterranean island.
Neil Farrugia is the man who brings the two countries together and despite not being a familiar name to most Maltese Football fans, the young forward is starting to make a name for himself with the SSE Airtricity League side.
Born in Paris to an Irish mother and French father, Farrugia currently represents Ireland at Under 19 level.
The forward scored his first goal in the Irish top flight on Monday when UCD played seven time league winners Dundalk.
UCD went on to lose the game 2-1 however, Farrugia put in an impressive display for his side on his third start of the season.
Farrugia has made three appearances for Ireland U19, scoring on one occasion against Serbia U19 in a 2-1 win.
Eligible to represent Ireland, France and Malta at full international level, Farrugia is a name to keep an eye on for the future as he continues his development at the UCD Bowl Stadium.
UCD are currently at the bottom of the SSE Airtricity League, however the Irish season has only just started and each side are currently just three games into their campaign.
The current regular Irish football season currently runs between 15 February and 25 October 2019
The young attacker suffered a broken collarbone in January last year, ruling him out from the majority of UCD’s campaign.
Farrugia required surgery and the recovery took longer than expected. In order to help the injury heal, the youngster had to avoid taking part in any contact exercises on his return to training.
The 19-year-old combines his football with his university studies as he is currently reading Biomedical Science.
Speaking about combining the two, Farrugia said: “It is enjoyable, I’m always busy and always doing something. I’m never sitting around. I don’t mind it at all, to be honest, I quite enjoy it if anything.”
A former FAI Schools International Player of the Year, Farrugia has attracted attention from clubs abroad as well as in the neighbouring country of England.
Speaking about an opportunity abroad, the 19-year-old explained it is not the right time in his career to move away from Ireland: “I don’t think I was physically and mentally ready to go over to England. I think physically, I needed some more first-team experience. Mentally, I don’t think I was ready.
“I had my mind set to get my undergraduate done in UCD. At least, if I had my undergraduate done, I’d be in way better shape to go over.
“If football ends because of an injury, or even after I stopped playing, at least I could go straight into a Masters and not have to do an undergraduate. And having been injured badly twice, you realise how easily a career can just end.”
Farrugia continued by comparing the development of players between Ireland and England: “Playing first-team football against men [in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division] is way better for my development than playing U23s in England.
“I don’t think that’s competitive enough and I just think first-team football is way more physical and better for your play in general.
“If you’re over in England, you probably end up getting loaned out to a team to get that first-team experience. So I might as well stay in Ireland and get my first-team experience and my undergraduate here.”