KEVIN Feely has heaped praise on manager Justin Edinburgh for convincing him not just to sign for Newport County AFC, but from preventing him quitting football altogether.
The Ireland U21 international has penned a two-year deal with the Exiles after being released by Charlton Athletic.
However, Feely’s signing is a surprise to many at County after the player indicated a desire to stay in Ireland and reignite a career playing Gaelic football.
A fortnight ago his signing was considered unlikely, but Feely credits Edinburgh and his family for convincing him that he should stick with soccer.
“Initially I was keen on staying at home, going to college and playing a bit of Gaelic football, but I talked to my parents, some friends and the manager here and I was getting the same answer from everyone, which was to give football another year,” he said.
“I think I’ve made the right decision, but it was tough.
“It’s hard for people outside Ireland to appreciate, but Gaelic football is a huge draw, it’s as professional as most sports in England despite being amateur and it’s on a nationwide stage, bigger than football is, much, much bigger.
“But you can’t have the same level of career as you can in football. It can’t provide the same living and ambition-wise, it’s representing your county and then you’ve peaked and in football I’m starting in League Two and hoping to go higher. You can be more ambitious.
“I have to credit Justin Edinburgh with how he handled the whole situation, it was never him badgering me, I let him know my thoughts before the end of the season and he gave me time, I was being indecisive and letting him down.
“He turned me around, really. To have an ex-Premier League defender telling you how much faith he has in you, it’s flattering. I’ve not had that level of support since I came to England.
“He never tried to convince me football was better than Gaelic football. It was always just explaining he believed in me.
“I felt homesick at times last season, but I had two weeks at home and gave it thought and ultimately decided I wanted to come back over.
“I’m delighted to sign a two-year deal, it’s a bit of security and I’m looking forward to hopefully a full season of first team games.
“I haven’t had that in England, the last time I played regularly was (in 2012/13) in Ireland for Bohemians.”
Feely is pleased to remain in Newport and is already looking for somewhere to live.
“I really enjoyed my time here on loan, hopefully next season will be more of the same, by the end of my ten games I looked back very pleased with how I played and I capped it off with a goal against Rochdale,” he said.
“We will be aiming for the play-offs, we were well capable of it before I got to the club; they had some momentum killed but the way we ended and having added to the squad, I think play-offs are realistic for us.”