THERE IS NO point trying to approach it softly.
Shane Farrell knows it’s coming.
“What happened in the Cup final?”
He has heard the question 100 times since Shelbourne were outclassed 4-0 by Derry City in Irish football’s showpiece at Aviva Stadium last November.
Nursing a groin injury heading into the game, Farrell declared himself fit and manager Damien Duff didn’t want to be without one of his most reliable performers.
Be it left back, wing back, centrally or supporting the attack, the 22-year-old always delivered.
But not here.
“I had a howler and got whipped after 45,” he sighs, even if he is able to muster a smile about it now.
“I gave away the first goal, I should have brought him down but I’ll learn for next time,” Farrell insists, acknowledging that “it was probably the wrong decision” to play.
There are other moments of frustration which stick in the mind.
“The ball came to me, I tried to play it backwards and I hit it off [Patrick] McEleney. I had so much space and all I could hear was the crowd groaning ‘arghhhh’. I said to myself that the gaffer is going to nail me at half time so I’ll take it on the chin. I was thinking second half I am going to try and run this show, but I didn’t come out.”
After Duff gave him a pat on the back and made the substitution, that is when Farrell sat in the dressing room alone, turning on his phone when the match had re-started to be greeted by a flood of messages from family and friends in the stands.
“They kept coming ‘where are you, why are you not coming back out?’ I just said ‘every manager in the world would have whipped a player off after the way I was playing’. Football wise, I don’t think I’ll get over it so the aim is to win it. It’s probably the hardest day of my life so far,” he says with a pause.
“Hardest as a footballer.”
Farrell sits outside a coffee shop at the Finglas Main Centre just a few minutes from where he now lives with one of his three older brothers, Dean.
“He is the one helping to drive me to achieve what I can in football,” he explains. “Even now when I need new boots or am short of money he will help me out.”
Farrell points to The Full Shilling pub across the road. “That’s where I ended up after the Cup final,” he begins, explaining why he was one of the first to leave the club’s post-final function in a city centre hotel.
“I just couldn’t bear it there. I went back to my family and they said ‘look, it doesn’t matter about the result, the one thing your Granda ever said was ‘imagine you play in the Aviva for me’. That was nice, it was good to hear. Even though they were probably slating me the next day!”
All you have to do with Shane Farrell is listen.
There is a warmth and a kindness to his words that shines through when he speaks about his mother, Elizabeth, and the influence of his late grandfather, Sean, who became a father figure when his own Dad, Patrick, passed away when Farrell was just two.
“All the lads off the team they know that I’m a Mammy’s boy. I always talk about my Ma, whatever we talk about it’s always me and my Ma. I’ll never change. Whatever I do it’s for my Ma. I’d be lost without her,” Farrell continues.
“We never really had money but she used to whip out fivers and tenners every week for me to pay for my subs, to pay for my fees at Finglas Celtic. The fees weren’t cheap. My Granda would help her out. Sometimes I’d ask and she wouldn’t have it, even €2 from somewhere, but if she didn’t have it she would send me around to my Granda.
“All that sticks in my head. The dream is to make it big time in football, get lots of money and give it all to my Ma. Well, I’ll take some of it and she can have some.”
There is a glint in the eye as well as a resilience and determination that underpins his ambition.
Elizabeth is the reason for that, and hearing her shout ‘Shane, Shane’ with a beaming smile on her face waving a Shelbourne flag as he warmed up for that FAI Cup final is a memory that ensures there will always be some fondness from that day.
So much so he has a copy of it saved on his phone.
Farrell explains how his mother became a 24/7 carer for one of his older sisters, Mandy, when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“I would have been around 15 or 16 when my sister got very sick so at the start I didn’t really know what it was, I didn’t really know how hard it was on my Ma. Then as I got older I got more aware about my sister. I’ve seen things that you don’t really want to be seeing.
“It would be tough but it would never really be that tough on me. My Ma made sure of that. Obviously I don’t want to see the stuff that I do see sometimes but when you see where my sister is at this stage, where my Ma is at this stage, you think to yourself, ‘what a job she is after doing’.
“It’s all changing, slowly but surely. When I go down to the house and I see my Ma smiling now, it’s hard to properly describe it. It’s like the best feeling ever to see her happy.”
Duff’s understanding of the situation is something Farrell credits with helping him to develop on the pitch, recalling the manager’s first pre-season session after taking charge in the winter of 2021, when he turned up with scrapes on his face after an incident at home.
“I tried to cover it with a neck warmer, but I saw all the staff looking at me. I remember thinking ‘what are these gonna think of me? They’re gonna think I’m a bad boy from Finglas’. But I told the gaffer and he was so understanding. He was so good.
“He’s so caring. He was always asking about me, what it was like at home, how my family were. He’s probably the most caring person I’ve met as a manager, he’s always checking in on me. He was getting me stuff off the pitch that just helped me massively.
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“I haven’t got to repay him yet, but I will soon.”
There was a poignancy to how he delivered that line that was felt at numerous other times in conversation.
Farrell revisits the period in his teens when his grandfather passed away, followed by his old coach at Finglas Celtic, as well as one of his closest friends growing up.
“I was just thinking ‘ah, here, what is going on, what am I going to do? Everyone keeps dying’. It was very tough. I was going to sack football off, but I didn’t. I had a knock on the door to play a friendly match and Owen Heary was up at it, that’s when he signed me for Shelbourne. But I always wonder what would have happened it they didn’t die.”
Farrell looks back over at the Full Shilling and laughs again.
“This place is full of Bohs fans. Everywhere you go in Finglas it’s Bohs fans. When I scored against them I celebrated in front of a few of them,” he says, a broad smile appearing yet again.
“Then I’m in there not long after and I got grabbed on the shoulder, ‘see you, Redzer, you ever celebrate in front of me again and you’re getting it’. All the lads were laughing, I still see that fella around now, I’ll go looking for him when we beat Bohs.”
It’s not just rival supporters who will make a point of having a word.
“I don’t know what it is in there, one of the nannies from the road tapped me on the shoulder too. She was like ‘do you remember me, you were the kid at six o’clock in the morning kicking the ball off the wall waking us all up, I used to hate ye!’
“But do ye know,” he adds. “All that people want to see here is people doing well. Finglas has a bad name and maybe it’s justified, every night there could be something different in the newspaper.
“But if anyone is doing well they get the full support, everyone around here loves when they do well. It makes the community stronger, it makes people look at Finglas differently, which helps massively for us.”
Farrell can continue to be one of those positive examples in this new Premier Division season with Shels, which begins with Drogheda United coming to Tolka Park on Friday.
“I can’t wait, basically, to show the lads that I’m ready to perform for them. I’d give anything for the team. I go into games knowing that I can do this, I’d have self-belief.
“I know I’m a good footballer and I know why the gaffer is starting me. I work hard. I take pride in hard work but I take more pride in what I do on the ball.
“If I gave away the ball twice I’d be fuming, but it wouldn’t stop me from doing it the third time. If it was a hard pass, I’d still do the hard pass. I’d rather lads get on to me about trying something then just playing it safe.
“I go into every game with a smile and I will still be one of the first to smile even if we lose. I hate losing but I’m not a sore loser. I just love football so much.”