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Folan flies home to find a club

FORMER Newcastle United man Stephen Folan considered walking away from football and starting a new career in frustration at how his career turned out in England.

But now the Galway lad, just turned 21, is back home and keen to revive his career in the League of Ireland as he weighs up his offers.

Folan was considered one of Galway's best exports of recent years when he joined Newcastle as a teenager and he made good progress at St James' Park, earning promotion to the reserve team not long after his cross-channel move, but after four years in England he has yet to play a single game of first-team football.

Last week Folan spent time training with Shamrock Rovers, he held talks with an un-named LOI side yesterday, and the chance of a move to a second-tier side in France could still come off, but for now Folan is keen to stay in Ireland and establish himself here.

"I just want to get playing football and enjoying it again, money is not important to me. I'm 21 now and I should be playing by now," Folan told the Evening Herald.

"It has been a frustrating time, there did come a point when I was just going to pack it all in, give up football and maybe go to college. It was so frustrating to know that I had the ability but that nothing was going right for me, things that were out of my hands were holding me back.

"But I know I have something to offer and I feel that a move to the league here at home could be good for me.

"I had options to stay in England; there was interest in France and Norway too but I wanted to come home and start up again, get my career going. I could go and sign for a club in England but I was still coming back from injury - I was behind everyone else in terms of fitness so I'd have a long way to get into the first team.

"And the League of Ireland is way better than it's given credit for. I can see that in the games I have watched and the players who have gone from the league and into big clubs in England.

"It was disappointing and heartbreaking to leave Newcastle as it was my second home but I had to uproot and leave, and the last few months have been tough," Folan added.

Folan was released by Newcastle in the summer but after that came a string of unhappy trials with lower-league teams in England. "It just wasn't a great experience. I had been at a Premier League club in Newcastle and the standard in the lower leagues wasn't what I was used to, it was all route one, very physical," he says.

"It was a real eye-opener, a case of 'welcome to the real world'. It was a hard experience, I was going back for a second trial but having to pay for my own accommodation and transport, and it soon eats into your savings."

He suffered an ankle injury in a trial game with Rotherham and has only been fit enough to train in the last fortnight, joining Rovers for a weekend session at Carton House, where there was also one other new face for the Hoops in Keith Fahey. Dublin-born Fahey is training with the club in an attempt to build up his fitness ahead of his imminent move back to Birmingham City following a spell back home on compassionate leave.

"I trained with Rovers for the last few days and that was a good experience, and I'm due to speak to someone else and then go back to Rovers on Tuesday for another week so it's up in the air," added Folan.

"I really enjoyed the experience with Rovers and I can see already that they have some quality players.

"The standard there is very high, so I'll see what my next move will be and what formal offers are on the table," says Folan, who also held talks with Sligo Rovers.