The accidental tourist

If Niall Quinn's bed is too short, then Ray Treacy's your Mr Fixit
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The Independent Online

He was an international footballer who won 42 caps, "played well in two of them, but was good in the sing-songs" and then became the travel agent who hates flying. As the Republic of Ireland's official World Cup tour operator, he advised supporters to save their money by not travelling to Japan this summer, but they ignored him, of course, which is why these are busy days for Ray Treacy Travel.

He was an international footballer who won 42 caps, "played well in two of them, but was good in the sing-songs" and then became the travel agent who hates flying. As the Republic of Ireland's official World Cup tour operator, he advised supporters to save their money by not travelling to Japan this summer, but they ignored him, of course, which is why these are busy days for Ray Treacy Travel.

For the next month, the whims and welfare of some 500 fans and media representatives, plus the FA of Ireland delegation, including Mick McCarthy's squad, will be the responsibility of the former Charlton, Swindon, Preston and West Bromwich Albion centre-forward and his small, unflappable team. If Niall Quinn's bed is too short, or the swimming pool at a supporters' hotel has too few sun-loungers, Ray Treacy, 55, will be expected to sort it.

And he will, just as he planned the exodus of thousands of fans to Italia 90 and USA 94 while still working in football management in Dublin; and organised all the travel arrangements in Ireland's Euro 2000 "group of debt". That was the one that took in venues such as Skopje, Zagreb and bomb-strewn Belgrade, where, with a beaten team and fed-up fans queueing at the airport some time after midnight, desperate to get home, the Yugoslav authorities suddenly demanded more money from every person leaving the country. A belligerent Treacy – offering a reminder of what Football League defenders were up against for 11 years – stood firm and won the day, just as he did in Iran last November, when the jobsworths of Tehran decided they could not, after all, allow Irish women into the stadium.

Little wonder that, sitting in his office opposite Dublin's main bus station, he says: "I never enjoy a trip. I have stressful moments and less stressful ones, but until we touch down at Dublin airport, it's work, not pleasure. Going to these places, you're putting your clients and your reputation at other people's disposal every time." Being "shit scared of flying" does not help, and makes the choice of his second career all the more peculiar. The only reason he can recall for starting the business in 1978 was: "As a player I'd always been the organiser, the one who sorted the travel, mainly because I didn't drink."

The advantage in handling Irish supporters as opposed to English is that any sort of hooliganism is not even a consideration: "They're rightfully regarded as the best supporters in the world. But even so, cultural differences still apply; out there, if someone shouts in the street, that's considered hooliganism. I've been telling embassy people that if any Irishmen are staggering along singing at the top of their voices, leave them to it. The Irish fan has a great capacity to go on a two-day trip and have two weeks' holiday."

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