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Byline: Alex McGREEVY

TWENTY SEVEN years ago, Jimmy McGeough turned his back on Irish football and enlisted in the recruitment drive for all-stars capable of making 'soccer' a national sport in America.

Last year he returned to manage Waterford United, the club that hails him as an legend of its great achievements in the 1960s and '70s, and 12 months on, has guided the Blues back to Premier League status.

For all his time away from the domestic game, McGeough has noticed only one change in Irish football.

"The pitches are better," he says.

"That's the only change I have noticed since 1978. The level of competition is pretty much the same but overall I haven't noticed too many changes.

"Some will say that's a good thing. More, I expect, will say it's bad.

"Certainly there were more people watching the game in my day because the choices were not as great, but I believe people will start coming back to the game and supporting their local teams."

McGeough, whose last job in the US was as assistant manager at Tampa Bay Mutiny, is confident crowds will swell in the eircom League due to the decision to introduce summer competition. His US career took place during spring and summer months.

"People no longer want to sit on wet seats with icicles hanging from their noses while trying to concentrate on a match.

"They want to be warm and dry and without distraction and that's not much to ask. The new move will make players fitter and better all round because the good weather will invite them to use the ball as it should be used.

"Waterford was always a 'ball on the ground' team and that tradition has remained throughout the years. With good weather supporting us, we will play the game right and invite our opponents to play that way with us. …