Irish soccer is poorer for the passing of Ray, one of its finest
IT'S hard to believe that the final whistle has blown on Ray Treacy's game of a lifetime.
There must be some mistake. The Great Referee in the Sky should have double-checked his stopwatch and seen that this match was not scheduled for an early finish.
'Trasser', as he was known to all and sundry in Irish soccer, was too full of life and mischief and passion to be called ashore prematurely.
And yet, there it is -the reality that Ray has shuffled off this mortal coil.
We can only hope he has gone to an eternal reward where hat-tricks abound for strikers, where the laughter is loud and long, and the japes and leg-pulls are intricately devised and the outcomes hilarious.
Great music and great craic is, of course, essential. And no air travel. That would be super, because, irony of ironies, given his career as a footballer and a travel agent, Ray hated flying.
I first took note of his name as a kid, when my late father, who wrote a soccer column for over three decades in the 'Sunday Press' under the by-line 'Big Bill', delivered his verdict on the then 20-year-old after a European Championship qualifier against Spain at Dalymount Park in October 1966.
Ray had made his international debut in a friendly against West Germany in May '66, and got his second cap in a bruising, foul-ridden encounter with the Spaniards, who were happy with a 0-0 draw.
"That young fella Treacy, he's a hardy boy," the Da said of Ray, who had been battered by the cynical Spanish defenders, but still kept coming back for more.
That attitude personified his international and club career. A product of Home Farm, he started out at West Brom.
Jeff Astle and John Kaye were their big-name strikers at the time, so chances were limited for the ambitious young Dubliner.
His playing career has been well documented - over 400 appearances in England and the League of Ireland, building a fine side at Drogheda that came close to winning the title, and a League victory with Shamrock Rovers in 1994.
Ray's former playing colleagues and friends at his funeral will talk of his cutting wit, his outspoken opinions that were often delivered with tongue firmly in cheek, his larger-than-life personality.
He has been sorely missed since he retired from the travel business, by Jimmy Magee and 'Sunday World' colleagues John Brennan and Sean McGoldrick at the Tuesday meetings in Robert Reade's pub in Store Street, at which the sporting world is put to rights over a carvery lunch.
We media folk got plenty of stick in those chats from the bould Ray, but he could take it, too.
The tales from the dressing room and the pitch were often hilarious and unprintable, but when his own soccer career came up for mention, Ray's consistent theme was one of self-deprecation.
To listen to him, you'd think it was only because he could play the banjo that he won 42 caps for his country, and that he was there just to make up the numbers.
Such was far from the case. He was a player's player, a tough, honest, wholehearted, value-for-money professional who served his clubs and his country extremely well.
Irish soccer is the poorer for his passing. "Thomas Cook" - we salute you!
Sincere condolences are offered to Ray's wife Jenny, his daughters Lisa and Karen, sons John and Gary, and his extended family and friends.