Treacy, Raymond Christopher Patrick (‘Ray’) (1946–2015), footballer and travel agent, was born on 18 June 1946 in Dublin. He was reared in Sandymount and educated at Westland Row Christian Brothers School and Ringsend College. At thirteen he was expelled from Westland Row for kicking a Christian Brother who was beating him for playing soccer. From ages ten to fifteen he played for Home Farm FC, renowned for its development of young talent, and was capped by the Irish international schoolboy and youth teams, playing left-back for the latter in June 1964 in a 1–0 victory over West Germany at Tolka Park. By then he had already signed (in 1961) as an apprentice professional with West Bromwich Albion in the English first division and scored on his first-team debut, in a 2–2 draw against Sunderland at Roker Park, on 8 October 1966. Playing at inside-forward, he found it difficult to break into what was a settled team and in the following year made only four further league appearances and failed to score. In the 1967/8 season he moved to Charlton Athletic in the second division where he established himself as a regular first-team inside- or centre-forward, scoring forty-four goals in 149 league games. While not the fastest or most skilful of players, he compensated with hard work and aggression. Standing five foot nine inches tall, he could outjump and outmuscle taller defenders and his aerial ability created numerous scoring chances for teammates. He often found it easier to play the man rather than the ball and was regularly booked, but took heavy challenges without complaint and was admired by home supporters for his toughness and commitment. In 1972 Charlton were relegated and Treacy was transferred to Swindon Town of the second division for a club record fee of £35,000, scoring 16 league goals in 55 appearances (1972–3), before moving on to second division Preston North End in December 1973, where he managed 11 goals in 58 games (1973–6).
On 4 May 1966 he received his first cap for the Republic of Ireland in a 4–0 defeat to West Germany in a friendly at Dalymount Park. A month later he played in the first ever match of the Ireland under–23 team, impressing in a 0–0 draw against France in Dublin. He scored his first goal for Ireland in a 2–1 away win in a European Championship qualifier in Prague on 22 November 1967 and provided the cross for the winning goal by Turlough O’Connor. Such results were a rarity; the team struggled to compete with better-prepared opponents and did not win another full international until June 1972, twenty-one games later. Treacy though never despaired, constantly encouraging his teammates and assuring them that a little more luck and effort would turn things around. His amiable character belied his hard man reputation and his wisecracks and practical jokes did much to raise team morale. He was also a keen banjo player, friendly with musicians such as Luke Kelly (qv), Jim McCann (qv), Paddy Reilly and Finbar Furey, whose regular post-match sessions helped the team to bond.
On the pitch, results improved under the management of Liam Tuohy (1971–3), with Treacy scoring the winning goal in a World Cup qualifier against France at Dalymount Park on 15 November 1972. The team advanced further under player-manager John Giles (1973–80), with Treacy scoring one and making another in a 2–1 win in a European Championship qualifier against Switzerland at Lansdowne Road on 10 May 1975. He was at his best in that qualifying campaign, vigorously unsettling international defenders and goalkeepers with strong aerial challenges that created opportunities for his strike partner Don Givens, who scored three against the Soviet Union on 30 October 1974 and four against Turkey a year later. Treacy regarded the 3–0 win over the Soviet Union as the highlight of his career. Although the Irish finished a point behind the Soviets and failed to qualify, they gained a reputation as a genuinely competitive team who could beat anyone on their day.
In 1976 he returned on a free transfer to West Bromwich, where Giles was also player-manager; the two had developed a strong mutual respect with the international team. Treacy began brilliantly, scoring twice on his debut to draw 2–2 against Derby County and adding goals in wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United to net four in his first four games. That season he managed six goals in twenty-one league games (1976–7), helping the team finish seventh in the first division. When Giles left West Bromwich in July 1977 to become player-manager of Shamrock Rovers, Treacy went with him. Attendances at League of Ireland matches declined sharply in the 1970s and Rovers struggled, finishing bottom of the league in 1976. With substantial investment from its owners, Giles sought to transform Rovers into a full-time professional side that would invigorate the league and attract the best local talent, and even challenge for European trophies. In the end the only trophy won under Giles was the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) Cup in 1978, when Treacy scored the winning goal from the penalty spot against Sligo Rovers. He added experience and steel to a young team and achieved his best ever scoring rate, with 35 goals in 71 league games (1977–80). He would have played more often but for his poor disciplinary record. In early 1979 he received three red cards in as many months and was suspended for four league matches. While serving his suspension he was sent off again on 14 April 1979 after coming on as a substitute for the League of Ireland XI (the league’s representative team) against the Italian Serie B in Mantova. He made one other appearance for the League XI, a 3–0 defeat to Argentina in Buenos Aires on 19 April 1978, and that summer turned out for Toronto Metros-Croatia in the North American Soccer League, scoring five times in twenty-three games. While at Rovers he played three times for Ireland and scored twice in a 4–2 win over Turkey in a friendly at Lansdowne Road on 5 April 1978; it would be another forty years before a League of Ireland player scored for the national team. In total, he was capped forty-two times for Ireland (1966–79) and scored five goals.
Treacy held a coaching certificate from the Football Association and while at Milltown with Rovers assiduously scouted and coached young players, who responded well to his enthusiasm and fresh ideas. In 1980 he became player-manager of Drogheda United, hoping to do on a more modest scale what Giles was doing at Rovers. He improved Drogheda’s fortunes and himself scored eleven goals in twenty-six games (1980–82). Sceptical that the League of Ireland could support full-time professionals, he tried to lay solid foundations by developing young talent but received little support and resigned in January 1982. In 1985 he was one of those interviewed by the FAI to become international team manager, but the job went to Jack Charlton (qv). The FAI did however grant him a testimonial match when a League of Ireland XI played the full international side on 23 May 1989 at Tolka Park. In June 1986 he was appointed manager of Home Farm and spent five years there working intensively with young players. As an amateur club, Home Farm struggled to stay in the Premier Division and was relegated in 1987, confirming his belief that it should focus primarily on youth teams rather than chase success at senior level. During the 1980s and 1990s he was also a regular pundit and co-commentator for RTÉ television, his thorough knowledge of the game and ready wit serving him well.
In January 1992 he became manager of Shamrock Rovers. He started slowly, going nine matches without a win but gradually put together a strong side that won the league title in 1994. However, he alienated some Rovers’ supporters by losing key players to clubs prepared to pay higher wages and quit in 1996 to concentrate on his travel agency, Ray Treacy Travel, founded in 1978 (he joked that he needed something to do during suspensions). Based at 22 Store Street, Dublin, it specialised in sports trips. The upsurge in the Republic’s footballing fortunes from 1988 boosted business and Treacy brought thousands of Irish fans to matches all over the world. He was a prominent figure on these trips, mixing easily with supporters and recounting yarns that poked fun at his playing ability and the shambolic circumstances of his early international career.
In 1998 Ray Treacy Travel became the FAI’s official travel agent, with responsibility for arranging away trips for teams, officials and supporters. It was he who chose Saipan as the Irish team’s warm-up destination for the 2002 World Cup, a decision he insisted he never regretted. By the late 2000s most travellers were making their own arrangements and the company was becoming unprofitable; he closed it down in October 2009. When inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame in 2009, he questioned what he had done to deserve it, only to be told by former teammate Noel Campbell that it was mainly for his work as a travel agent.
He spent much of his retirement playing golf in Portugal and enjoying the company of his family. After developing motor neurone disease, he died on 10 April 2015 in St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, aged sixty-eight, survived by his wife Jenny and children, Lisa, Karen, John and Gary. Although there were others who won more caps and trophies, Treacy stands out for his immense popularity among players, supporters and journalists, and for his notable careers in both English and Irish football and outside the game.