Top hurler rolls up his sleeves on the family farm
Michael Grace has just completed all the legal work on the transfer of the family farm from his father, Martin, and is busy working on development plans for the 50-acre holding at the foot of the Blackstairs Mountains near Inistioge in South Co Kilkenny.
The legal papers were signed off on last week - just three days before Michael's 35th birthday - if he had left it any later, a much higher rate of land transfer taxes would have applied.
It was an unusually close run thing for the All-Ireland senior hurling medallist, but Michael was a happy man when we spoke.
"I have signed off on the transfer and I am glad that's over. We saved some money in tax. If it had gone on any longer or past my 35th birthday, the costs would have been much greater," he explains.
Now it's full steam ahead for Michael. He is planning to expand the farm's suckler herd of Charolais crosses from 20 to around 30 in the short term through buy-ins and by culling and replacing the non-performing stock.
His plan is to simplify the farm and turn the herd into a spring-calving enterprise rather than the current year- round calving.
The Graces rear their cattle on farm to 24 months and sell their stock at New Ross mart.
Michael will soon be turning his attention to reseeding the fields.
"It's all old grass. I have already got 10 acres of the job done and I will do the rest over the next two or three years," he says.
Running in parallel to all this activity are plans for new cow sheds which might not have qualified for the lower rate farm building grants if land transfer had been delayed any longer.
And, as if that's not enough, he is also finishing his Green Cert studies in Kildalton.
Michael, who is in a long-term relationship with Aine Phelan, a local school teacher, was always the farmer of the family.
His brother John runs a restaurant in Washington DC; Corina is a teacher in England; Martina is a special needs assistant; Annette works for Kerry Ingredients and the youngest of the family, Robert, is pursuing a business degree in Carlow IT.
Michael himself works off farm as the south eastern sales representative for the American company Chemsearch in Dundalk.
The company specialises in disposal of water and chemicals across the agricultural, hospitality and industrial sectors.
He intends to stay with the company and build up his farming enterprise in Inistioge on the side.
He is still playing hurling with his local team, Rower Inistioge, and intends to become more active on the training side when his time comes to depart the field of play.
His medal tally reflects an impressive playing career as a half back with four All- Ireland medals including a senior medal in 2009, an U21 in 2003 and two intermediate medals for the county in 2007 and 2008. Michael also won an All-Ireland club medal with his beloved club.
Like most Kilkenny people, he is unstinting in his praise and admiration of Brian Cody, the all-conquering Kilkenny county manager. "He is a very fair and honest man. When I was playing with county, if you put the work in and it showed on the training ground, then he would be very fair with you," says Michael.
In conversation with Ken Whelan
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