The top GAA county teams generate much more money than they spend, Dublin's All-Ireland-winning manager Pat Gilroy insisted yesterday as he defended the nationwide €19m expenditure on inter-county teams.
Dublin were top spenders in 2011 with in excess of €1.7m covering the exploits of the five teams that reached All-Ireland semi-finals in August and September in an unprecedented run of success for the county's teams. It was the most any county had ever spent in one year on preparing their teams.
Eleven of the 32 counties ran annual deficits last year, while GAA director general Paraic Duffy said recently that the same number of counties were considered to be facing financial difficulty.
Inevitably, the spend on inter-county teams is blamed for the spiralling pressure on county boards -- the overall figure has only dropped below €20m in the last two years -- but Gilroy is adamant that when the figures are analysed, many counties would provide a net gain for their boards.
When gate money, TV revenues and national and local sponsorship are factored in on top of other spin-offs associated with teams, a different conclusion can be reached.
"There's no question that the top teams generate far more than what it costs to run the team," Gilroy insisted. "I don't think there's anything extravagant being done. There might be the odd training trip abroad, but a lot of times sponsors or someone else is paying for them."
Gilroy believes that most counties are not loose with the money they spend on their teams.
"It's good housekeeping stuff, like feeding lads properly after training and proper medical care, which is a huge cost. But if you don't do it right, you won't have your players on the field," he said.
The cost in the four weeks between an All-Ireland semi-final and final can, he admits, really spiral.
"Once you go past the All-Ireland semi-final stage, the cost in that month... you're going to do the best with everyone.
"We had a few injuries and we wanted to get them the best of care, so definitely when you're at the top end of it the cost is going to be much higher. There is a price for success, there's no doubt about it."
His comments echo those of Kieran McGeeney prior to last month's Allianz Division 2 league final against Tyrone, when the Kildare manager defended his county's financial predicament and argued that the team had generated €3m in ticket sales over the previous four years, before their value in €35m worth of media and commercial rights over the same period is incorporated.
Meanwhile, Gilroy admitted that having to tell players in recent weeks that they were no longer part of the squad has been the most difficult task in his four years as Dublin manager.
Declan Lally, Sean Murray and Dean Rock were omitted last week as U-21 players Kevin O'Brien, Emmet O Conghaile and Jack McCaffrey came in. Ciaran Kilkenny will also join the squad after he completes his Leaving Cert.
"Nobody wasn't applying themselves. We made a decision based on capability at a particular point in time," he said.
"Some of those lads I'd expect to come back into the Dublin fold in future once they improve in certain areas.
"It is probably the hardest thing you have got to do in management, leaving a fella off the panel, particularly with the attitude of our panel -- guys are really applying themselves. There are no disciplinary matters being dealt with, that's just the way it is. It is important to freshen it up too."
Gilroy says the introduction of the U-21 players has really shaken up the squad and put added pressure on them to determine their best 26 for match days.
"They really want to push. They are only in a couple of weeks, but when the ball is there to be won they are going for it 100pc. I'm very happy with the three of them since they came in. They have made our lives even more difficult in terms of picking a team for this Sunday," he said.
Gilroy believes Dublin's greatest success since winning the All-Ireland title has been the management of injuries.
"The injury part we'd be very conscious of because lads go through the All-Ireland and then go playing with their clubs. Most of our guys were involved right through to early December with their clubs. If you are back to training on January 1, then that is a very long year," he said.
"So, the policy we took was that we gave people who had injuries loads of time to recover. We could have pressed Alan (Brogan) into service, Bernard or Denis Bastick, earlier. But we felt no, let's try to get them fully recovered and it might stand to us in the summer. We have one injury in the panel, that's Paul Brogan, that's the first time all year."
Lack of game time for the Brogans or the others who were rested during the league is not a concern for the management.
"Even in the last six weeks Bernard has played a lot of games internally with us and even if it takes him a few weeks to pick it up, it's not something I'd be overly concerned about," said Gilroy. "The flip side is that they'll be really fresh because they haven't played much football.
"Take the likes of Alan and Bernard -- they have had seven or eight years on the go and maybe getting a break like that is a natural call from their bodies. Hopefully, they'll come back fresh from it."