Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Joe McGrath

1996 - 98 : New Zealand

Joe McGrath was an Irish striker who played for Dundalk, Drumcondra and Limerick during the 1960s. His only trophy as a player was the President's Cup in 1964. 

In 1985, after completing his UEFA coaching badges, he was appointed as Liam Tuohy's successor of the Irish youth team. He later served as FAI Director of Coaching.

In 1990, he was appointed as manager of the now-defunct Kilkenny City Football Club. He held the post for only a year however, and left in 1991 without any trophies.

In late 1996 he left his post with the FAI to take up the reigns as coach of the New Zealand national football team, replacing Scotsman Keith Pritchet. His task was to try and get the All Whites to the World Cup in France in 1998. New Zealand had only graced the world stage once before, when they reached the 1982 World Cup in Spain, where they were eliminated in the group stage.

His first match was an unofficial May 21 1997 friendly against a combination team of the New Zealand league, which his players drew 1-1. This was followed by a loss to the same side, 2-1, two days later.

On May 31 he finally took charge of his first official game. The match was a World Cup qualifier away to Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby. Disastrously McGrath's side lost 1-0 to the islanders, most of whom were part timers. After a friendly with a Gold Coast XI, his side bounced back, beating Fiji 1-0 in Suva seven days later. Back in Auckland they thumped Papua New Guinea 7-0 and Fiji 5-0, to leave them top of Group 2 and facing Australia in the Oceania Final. 

In the first game in Auckland, in front of 25,000 fans; Australia smashed them 3-0, leaving them with little hope. A week later, in Sydney they were again beaten 2-0 by the Socceroos. Australia went through to face Iran in a play-off, only to loose on away goals. Thus, the 1998 World Cup saw no teams qualify from Oceania. 

As well as managing the senior side, McGrath was also working with the youth teams. In June of that year, he coached the Under 23's to two friendly losses to Australia. And in September, McGrath personally took charge of the country's youth squad for the 1997 Under 17's World Cup in Egypt. This proved a bad move however, as his side were beaten 4-0 by Mahamadou Diarra's Mali and 5-0 by Mexico, before being slaughtered 13-0 by Xavi, Iker Casillas and Spain.

Later that month, on 21 September 1997, McGrath took his senior players to Jakarta to face Indonesia in a friendly, where they were beaten 5-0. 1998 saw them claim a respectable 0-0 home friendly draw with Chile, before losing 1-0 at home to South Korea. This was the Irishman's last match in charge.

In spite of his less than impressive record he was offered a new two year contract with the All Whites in April 1998, but turned it down to return to Ireland and manage Bohemians. While with Bohs, he signed five members of his New Zealand squad. Jason Batty, Harry Ngata, Gareth Rowe, Ross Nicholson and Dean Dodds all moved to Dalymount Park within the year, however, of the five; only Batty would be a success and outlast the manager.

McGrath would later return to Kilkenny in 2000 for one year. This was his last job in coaching.

McGrath was fourth Irishman to manage a foreign national football team. Joe Kinnear managed India and Nepal, Frank O'Farrell managed Iran and Jim Donnelly managed Turkey. McGrath is by far the least successful and least remembered. 

Ten years after he left New Zealand, Brian Kerr would become the fifth Irish coach of a foreign nation by taking the reigns of the Faroe Islands.

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