Kilkenny's TOP Team
May 23, 2006
With such high-profile GAA personalities as Charlie Carter, Ken McGrath, Justin McCarthy and Jody Devine part of its nationwide team, TOP Oil clearly prides itself on its links with the GAA.
TOP Oil also prides itself on being a 100 per cent Irish-owned family firm which forms an integral part of the Tedcastle Holdings Group. The Group dates backs over 200 years and comprises business interests as diverse as fuel retailing and distribution, retail stores and property not only in Ireland but also in the UK. Along with its proud history, TOP Oil has is firmly focused on the future. The company has a strong commitment to its corporate ethos and tradition of customer service, while at the same time expanding its many business interests.
Across Ireland, TOP Oil is best known for its nationwide network of service stations, commercial and agricultural fuels, domestic heating oil service, fuels for the aviation industry, and its ownership of one of the country's largest oil terminals with a storage capacity of over 55,000 tonnes. Throughout each of these areas, the company maintains a business philosophy which promotes world class standards and a deep sense of responsibility towards its customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers and the communities in which it operates. This philosophy certainly applies to TOP Oil's Kilkenny depot, which is workplace to a host of well-known GAA personnel.
"We are extremely proud of the fact that TOP Oil is 100 per cent Irish-owned and is therefore in a strong position to promote the GAA," says Seamus Grace, TOP Oil's Kilkenny Depot Manager and Regional Sales Manager for the South-East.
"Throughout the country, TOP Oil employs many people who are involved in the GAA, and we have our fair share of GAA people working with us here in Kilkenny. Hurling is part of the fabric of Kilkenny and we like to think that our many All-Ireland successes have given us an edge when it comes to doing business," he adds.
Undoubtedly the best known member of the TOP Oil team in Kilkenny is Cats hero Charlie Carter, who has been Area Sales Representative for the past six years. Mick Lawler, who is Delivery Contractor for TOP Oil in the area, won an All-Ireland medal with Kilkenny in 1969, while Seamus Grace bagged two All-Ireland club medals himself with Ballyhale Shamrocks in 1981 and '84.
Another Delivery Contractor connected to the Kilkenny depot, Christy Dwyer, is a brother of former Kilkenny All-Ireland winning full back Pat Dwyer, and was a hurler of some note with Carrickshock.
Charlie Carter is a household name in hurling, and his recently-launched autobiography "Triumphs and Troubles" provides an excellent insight into the life of a top inter-county hurler. The classy forward quit the inter-county scene in controversial circumstances in 2003 after captaining Kilkenny to a National League success, but continues to line out for his club Young Irelands.
"I've been playing senior hurling with the club for the past 17 or 18 years and it's very much a case of 'one year at a time' at this stage. I can't say if I'll still be playing in two or three years' time," the 35-year-old says.
"Pat O'Neill, the former county centre back, has been appointed manager for the coming year and we hope to give the championship a good crack. We are a fairly seasoned team, but there are a few decent young lads starting to filter through. Like any rural club, we can't afford to be without anyone. If we can stay injury-free, however, we should be there or thereabouts in the championship."
Carter was an integral member of the Young Irelands team which defeated James Stephens to win their first senior championship in 1996. They regained the title after beating Dunnamaggin in 2002, and were runners-up in 1997, 2003 and 2004. The Gowran men also reached the Leinster club final in 2002, only to lose to eventual All-Ireland champions Birr.
In the black and amber of Kilkenny, Charlie won every honour the game has to offer. He came to national prominence with the Kilkenny minors in 1988 when they captured the All-Ireland title. Carter was part of a small but lethal full forward line that also included his club colleague DJ Carey and Adrian Ronan.
Two years later, he won All-Ireland under 21 and junior medals. This led to him being called up to the Kilkenny senior panel by the late Ollie Walsh, and he was a sub when the Cats lost the 1991 All-Ireland final to Tipperary but made amends the following year with victory over Cork.
Charlie's inter-county career suffered a setback when he was dropped from the Kilkenny panel in 1993. But after being recalled in 1994, Carter not only established himself on the team but earned a reputation as one of the best corner forwards in the game.
Despite scoring a first half goal against Offaly in the 1998 All-Ireland final, Carter finished on the losing side. Further disappointment following in '99 when the Cats were pipped again by Cork, but revenge was sweet when they hammered Offaly to be crowned All-Ireland champions in Millennium Year.
Charlie won his third senior All-Ireland medal in 2002 when Kilkenny beat Clare, but his inter-county career ended on a bitter note when Brian Cody's shock decision to drop him after he captained Kilkenny to a National League final victory over Tipperary in 2003 led to him quitting the panel.
"I felt I had another year of two left in me, but it wasn't to be. The way it happened was most unsatisfactory and I couldn't really go back after that," he ruefully reflects.
Still, Carter had a magnificent senior career with Kilkenny, garnering three All-Ireland medals, seven Leinsters and three All-Star awards. He also won Railway Cup honours with Leinster and represented Ireland in the Hurling/Shinty series.
Long before Charlie came on the scene, Mick Lawler was an All-Ireland winner with the Cats. Mick made his inter-county debut in 1962 but had to wait until 1969 to win an All-Ireland medal when he partnered Frank Cummins at midfield in the All-Ireland final triumph over Cork. He also played in the 1971 decider which the Cats lost to Tipperary.
Lawler played club hurling with Coon, who later amalgamated with Muckalee and Ballyfoyle to become St. Martin's. He won junior and intermediate hurling championship medals with Coon in 1967 and '72 respectively and, during his time working in Wicklow, he also achieved senior championship success with Carnew.
Seamus Grace was part of the great Ballyhale Shamrocks team that won All-Ireland club hurling titles in 1981 and '84, and captured county championships in 1980, '82, '83, '85 and '87. The team was backboned by seven Fennelly brothers, including Ger, Liam and Kevin who were all regulars for Kilkenny during the same period.
A former club secretary, Seamus is no longer actively involved with Shamrocks, but his sons Kieran and Eoghan were members of the under 21 and under 14 teams last year. Kieran has won three under 21 championship medals in the past three years and looks destined to have a bright future at senior level.
"After a few lean years, the senior team is looking strong again. Inexperience probably cost them against James Stephens in last year's county final, but the success of the under 21 team certainly augurs well for the future," he says.
TOP Oil's depot in Hebron Industrial Estate, Kilkenny is one of four regional offices nationwide (the head office is based in Dublin). The company has expanded its operations greatly in recent years and has made significant progress in the retail sector. This is borne out by the fact that there are now over 150 TOP Oil Filling Stations throughout the 26 counties. In addition there are 30 franchised Oil distributors and 16 company owned depots nationwide.
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