Nine days before he was due to attend the golden jubilee reunion of the Westmeath minor football team that reached the All-Ireland final in 1963 came the sad news of Ray's sudden passing in Adare, Co. Limerick. Aged 68, Niland was a brilliant dual player who represented the county in both football and hurling.
Originally from Mayo, he moved to Westmeath when his parents opened a wholesale grocery business in Athlone. He lined out at midfield on the first Westmeath team to run out in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day, only for the occasion to end in disappointment when Kerry emerged as comfortable winners.
Earlier in 1963, he and centre back Pat Bradley from Rochfortbridge helped Patrician College, Ballyfin to a Leinster Colleges SHC title. The Laois school was subsequently defeated by St. Finbarr's in the All-Ireland final. Ray lost his third All-Ireland final that year when Westmeath succumbed to Antrim in the All-Ireland JHC 'Home' final. He scored three goals, but still ended up on the losing side.
Ray's third level medical studies brought him to UCG (now NUIG) where he had a remarkable innings in both the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups. He was the sole first year on the UCG team that defeated UCC by 2-10 to 0-5 in the '63 Sigerson Cup final, which was played in December of that year, and also played in the finals of 1965, '66, '68 and '69. He played in Fitzgibbon Cup finals in 1965 and '67, both of which ended in defeat.
Following the family's move to Galway in late 1963, Ray changed allegiances to the other maroon and whites and was on the Galway U21 team for two years and won a Connacht club medal with Fr. Griffin's. He then linked up with the county of his birth, playing his club football with Castlebar Mitchel's. In 1968, he lined out at left corner back on the Mayo team which defeated Down - who would win the All-Ireland later that year - in the National League final.
Mayo secured Connacht SFC honours in 1969 before losing the All-Ireland semi-final to Kerry with Ray featuring at left half back.
Ray was a former consultant surgeon in Birmingham's Midland Eye Hospital, where the family lived for a time, and Limerick's Regional Hospital as it was known until recently. He also had a private practice in the city. A former captain of Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort, he was father to former international tennis players Gina and Conor, the latter who played at Wimbledon and the US Open before injury forced him to retire.
Fittingly, Conor travelled to Mullingar's Annebrook House Hotel to represent his late father at the aforementioned golden jubilee reunion.