LIMERICK are a long time waiting to emulate their last All-Ireland senior hurling success of 1973 and one of the names synonymous with that era is full-forward Eamon 'Ned' Rea.
Rea was something of an unknown quantity when he faced Kilkenny in that '73 decider, but still finished up on the podium of the Hogan Stand. A year on, he played on the team that lost to Kilkenny in the 1974 final. Yet, he signed off the inter-county stage with two Munster medals and an All- Ireland title.
After moving from Limerick to Dublin early in his career, he joined Templeogue outfit Faughs where he enjoyed a successful career, winning three Dublin championships and three county league titles. The Parkgate Street publican's life has been devoted to the GAA. Recently, his home club, Effin, won the Limerick junior title for the first time. And today, he returns home again to see them play Meelin in the Munster semi-final at Kilmallock.
"There were eight brothers in our family; we lost one a few years back, but to have the seven Rea brothers on the sideline on that county final day was a proud moment, the next best thing to winning the '73 All-Ireland," he says. "I'll be on the road again today to watch them."
Not long back, Ned also flew over to London where one of his brothers, Gerry, was honoured as full-back on the London team of the decade. Incredibly, Ned actually marked Gerry in the 1973 All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final between London and Limerick.
"I didn't score off him either so I heard lots about it over the years," he laughed. "But what struck me on that weekend was the little children, all of them English, under 8 and under 10s, giving exhibitions on the field at half-time during the various county finals. English kids with Irish parents hurling a few miles from Wembley -- if you could bottle that and bring it back home!"
A similar passion has helped to energise Rea's adopted club, Faughs, over the past 40 years. Last weekend, they celebrated 125 years in business. Ned, among countless others, has played a huge part in their development.
"I came up to Dublin for a week in 1968 and I'm here since," he says. "In that time, Faughs have been great to me. We have 31 senior championships -- the nearest challengers have 13 -- but we haven't won one since 1999 and that needs to be rectified soon."