Tuesday 24 April 2018

Daniel McDonnell: Farewell to a wise man with a big heart

Treacy's passing robs the Irish game of a special character

11 September 1994: Ray Treacy, former Shamrock Rovers manager and former Republic of Ireland international (David Maher / SPORTSFILE)
11 September 1994: Ray Treacy, former Shamrock Rovers manager and former Republic of Ireland international (David Maher / SPORTSFILE)
5 June 1966: The Republic of Ireland team, back row, from left, Tommy Carroll, Paddy Mulligan, Al Finucane, Pat Dunne, David Pugh and Ray Treacy; front row, from left, Joe McGrath, Eamon Dunphy, Jimmy Morrissey, Frank McEwan and Eamonn Rogers. Under 23 International, Ireland v France, Dalymount Park, Dublin (Connolly Collection / SPORTSFILE)
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ray Treacy is the perfect example of a person who meant many things to many people.

That has been evident in the range of tributes since he passed away on Friday, words of genuine sincerity which reflected the impact he made in a life that was largely spent in the front line of Irish football duty.

He touched every base. To the players of the 60s and the 70s, an era of near-misses, he was a brave and valued team-mate. To subsequent generations of senior internationals, he was the affable travel agent with a story to tell and an understanding of their existence.

That easygoing manner made him a natural fit for TV and radio punditry. Those of us who were too young to remember Ray Treacy the player, still grew up knowing the face and recognising the voice.


In the League of Ireland sphere, he was the high-profile Shamrock Rovers recruit in the Giles/Dunphy experiment who maintained an affection for the cause and eventually returned to become a league-winning manager on a sensible budget.

And for the football supporters with a wanderlust, he was a friendly face who plotted their trips around Europe and beyond. As the official travel partner to the FAI, he looked after logistics for the squad as well as the ordinary punters who used up their holidays to be a part of the adventure.

'Trasser' was on first-name terms with most of them too; his natural affinity with people made him an ideal fit. There's a strong empathy towards the stars of his day because they had to knuckle down and earn a living in the real world.

Certainly, it's hard to imagine one of today's leading lights spending the next phase of their life standing around airport terminals in some far-flung destination waiting for a planeload of fans in high spirits to arrive so they could be ushered towards a bus or a hotel.

The organisation of the media package came under his remit too and Treacy was a dear friend to the longer-serving members of the press who enjoyed his company in his various guises. They are better placed to do his memory justice.

Reading through old news clippings over the weekend, it's obvious that he had an abundance of material for the book that he threatened to write.

His colourful journey included banjo lessons from Luke Kelly, a stint chaperoning George Best on his visits to Ireland and his own dabble with the entertainment industry when he released a single entitled The Punch and Judy Man.

"I would doubt that any player had more fun than I had," he told the Sunday Independent's Sean Ryan in a 1994 interview, "But among my fellow professionals no one took the game more seriously."

Treacy was modest about his playing talents but confident about his ability in the dugout. In that same piece, he declared himself as the best manager in the country. And it would be impossible to wear some of the loud jackets that were a feature of his TV appearances in the 90s - see YouTube for evidence - without having a bit of a swagger.

But he was a thoroughly decent human being, and one story which stood out from the archives was an unlikely appearance in the coverage of the post-Christmas sales in 1983.

Newspaper reports described how the former footballer camped outside Switzers on Grafton St, braving the cold in a ski-suit and show shoes, so he could be at the front of the queue to secure the top bargain, a video unit with a camera, and then auction it off for charity.

He didn't waste his time on the kerbside, raising £1,000 for the Drug Unit in Jervis St Hospital by catching the attention of passers-by.

He looked out for others, and also cared about the future of his sport. Football wasn't always kind in return. Hindsight has judged his tenure at Rovers favourably but two years after league joy in 1994, he departed after a sustained period of fans calling for his head. The dressing room was weakened by the loss of players who accepted lucrative offers from elsewhere.

Treacy was mystified by the attitude of the poachers. "I feel that players, by and large, are grossly overpaid," he said in 1995, a juncture where the real madness was only beginning to take flight.

When Peter Eccles, the legendary Rovers centre-half, asked the boss for a £5 rise, he was invited outside to the RDS for an economics lesson. "I showed him the crowd and there were so few people there that it made the point we couldn't afford it, even though we were one of the best-supported teams at the time," Treacy later explained.

Other clubs failed to listen and paid the penalty.

When Treacy left the Hoops, the books were balanced, an achievement that was belatedly recognised as important.

The warmth of the recollections over the past 72 hours would suggest that those who really knew this wise man always appreciated his value.

He was taken too soon, but he sure managed to do a lot with his innings. With certainty, it can be said that Irish football will never see his like again.

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