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JOE McGrath turned down a two-year contract from the New Zealand FA to come home from down under and take Bohemians into the next century.

Last night Dalymount officials finally confirmed that New Zealand's national team manager McGrath will take over as Bohs boss next season. Frank O'Neill will step up from B team boss to work as McGrath's assistant.

Dublin-born McGrath played for Dundalk and Drumcondra in the 1960s and also had a spell playing in Australia.

A fully-qualified UEFA coach, he took over as Irish Youths team coach in 1985 in succession to Liam Touhy and was later appointed FAI Director of Coaching. McGrath's only experience managing in the National League was with Kilkenny City in 1990.

He left the FAI in 1996 to sign up as New Zealand's national team coach. McGrath failed in his bid to get them to the World Cup finals but did enough in his two years down under to earn the offer of a new two-year contract - which he turned down.

McGrath is the first Bohs manager who was not a former player and takes over from Turlough O'Connor as the club marks the 20th anniversary of the last time a league title was won.

McGrath has sold his house in New Zealand and is now tying up his personal affairs. He will start work at Dalymount on May 15 on a two-year contract.

McGrath will not have time to ease into his new post. Just three members of the Bohs first team squad are signed up for next season - Tommy Byrne, Brian Mooney and Michael Dempsey - so McGrath will have to enter negotiations with the rest of the players.

Some players, like Derek Swan, Tony O'Connor and Maurice O'Driscoll are already targets for rival Premier Division clubs. And he will also decide on the future of midfielder Derek McGrath - the new boss's son.

Most of the squad are over the age of 30, like Paul Doolin, Dave Henderson, Robbie Best, James Coll and Joe Hanrahan.

But McGrath is unlikely to initiate a mass clearout, as he will need some experienced heads around Dalymount.

However his work with the Irish underage teams over the past decade could be the key to the club's future.

"Joe has a lot of contacts in England, especially with a lot of the young Irish players over there. We would see ourselves having access to the best young Irish talent over there and offering them a future here in the National League," said a club source. "And we would like him to work with our own schoolboys section."

McGrath is also expected to bring some players with him from New Zealand to Dublin.

"It looks like could be a lot of changes next season, but we will have to wait and see," said winger Mooney last night.

"I don't know much about Joe, I had finished my time with the Irish youths team when Joe took over. But he has a good record.

"The main thing is that he assembles a squad for next season capable of challenging for the league. And we can still get into Europe - especially if we can beat Pats on Friday night. That would be a nice way for Joe to start his career as Bohs boss, in Europe," added Mooney.
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 8, 1998
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