Ray got to play in front of big crowds, win league titles, compete in cup finals, play in Europe against the likes of Bayern Munich, and represent his league in prestigious games. He was a local icon but because of the era he played in, the strange role that domestic football played in Irish society at the time, and the lack of surviving TV footage, Ray is mainly remembered these days by groups of ageing Drumcondra fans who hold on to memories of a club that disappeared from senior league football back in 1972.
It was on a still, sunny November afternoon last year on the approach to the Aviva Stadium (Lansdowne Road as was) that I spotted Paul McGrath. Paul was, like the rest of the crowd, on his way to the FAI Cup final between Derry City and his former club, St. Patrick’s Athletic. He is of course no stranger to the old ground; he strode its turf with gazelle-like grace over the course of his 12 year international career, and it was his performances in a green shirt that have ensured his status as a sporting legend in Ireland. Despite his much publicised personal problems, or perhaps because of them, Paul is not only respected by the Irish public, but genuinely loved. It is that hint of vulnerability that was so at odds with his commanding, assured performances, that has struck such a chord with football fans.
He was my footballing…
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