Rea passes Limerick mantle to Class of 2018
When Limerick's day in the sun finally rolled around last August, Eamonn 'Ned' Rea was never so pleased to be yesterday's man.
A hero of the 1973 team that secured Liam MacCarthy, he was only too glad to pass on the mantle as Limerick's last All-Ireland-winning team.
"I could have cried all night but I didn't but, I mean, I could have," Rea recalled.
"You'd have to be from Limerick to appreciate and be waiting as long as we were waiting. I stood where I was down (in Croke Park) and I didn't leave until the cup was gone. I wanted to absorb it and savour it for as long as possible. It was fantastic.
"I suppose hurling is in an awful lot of a better place in Limerick now than it was when we won. It's all about the present and now the future.
"In 1973, it was great. It was a great few years when you'd have people ringing me slagging me about it. It was good to me as well, professionally and all of that.
"It's over, it's history now. It's all about the present squad of players and what they're doing and building on it hopefully, but it's going to be a tough campaign again."
He's full of praise for how the Class of 2018 have handled themselves so far, on and off the field. Rea spent years as a publican with his bar on Dublin's Parkgate Street the first stop for Limerick people getting off the train at Heuston.
But he was pleased that the players opted not to bring the cup around the pubs.
"I thought it was great and most publicans would agree with that. You get some towns and there are three or four pubs in the town and if you go to one you have to go to them all.
"The message it sent out was more important. Using the cup to promote drink, encourage people to drink, or using the occasion for drink is wrong.
"I have met publicans down in Limerick and there was nobody who had a problem with that. It's going to nursing homes and hospitals and clubs.
"They're visiting old people who can't get out, maybe, or are in a remote area and they're bringing the cup to them."
On the field, Limerick have hit the ground running in the league with three wins from three.
Last weekend's win away to Kilkenny was particularly impressive as they left Nowlan Park with a nine-point win.
And bar Jackie Tyrrell's assertion that Limerick aren't one of the top three teams in the country, plenty of others have been impressed by the Treaty.
However, having reached the All-Ireland final as defending champions in 1974, Rea knows just how difficult it is to retain Liam MacCarthy.
"Now they're coming in as champions and champions are there to be taken.
"The standard is pretty level. I mean, there was only a puck of a ball last year, Clare could have been in the final rather than Galway. In the Tipperary-Clare match Tipp hit the post and they went up and Clare got a goal.
"Then the goal that Tipperary got against Waterford put Waterford out and Galway have still a serious team. Tipperary with (Liam) Sheedy will be motivated to do well."
"The breaks last year went their way and for years we got no breaks."
Whatever happens this season, Rea doesn't believe there will be another 45-year wait before Limerick are top of the pile again.
"There are seven or eight teams there that are well capable of winning it. Anyone who says Kilkenny are gone is codding themselves.
"From a Limerick point of view, if we were to meet Kilkenny in an All-Ireland final I wouldn't be that confident that we'd beat them again. You can never write them off.
"Clare and Galway are still strong. Cork, they were only a puck of a ball away last year. Tipperary, Liam Sheedy involved. Kilkenny. Dublin, maybe.
"Years ago you'd play four matches and win an All-Ireland. I think it's seven or eight matches now to win an All-Ireland and on any one day in an All-Ireland quarter-final anything can happen."