THE heady days for the GAA when cash from rugby and soccer poured into its coffers are well and truly over.
For four years, Croke Park's accounts bulged with IRFU and FAI rent money for international games, but the reopening of Lansdowne Road closed what had been a very lucrative account.
The loss to the GAA is starkly illustrated in Croke Park's accounts for 2011, which show a reduction of €4m on the previous year under the 'hire of facilities' heading. That relates directly to the absence of international fixtures last year, unlike 2010 when Ireland's three home rugby fixtures in the Six Nations were played at Croke Park.
Prior to that, Croker had housed all of Ireland's major rugby and soccer internationals since 2007, producing €36m in rent money.
The three rugby internationals in early 2010 yielded around €4m for the GAA in the last big pay-out, prior to the return to Lansdowne.
In addition to the €4m lost through the departure of international sports, reduction in rent money from Central Council and Leinster Council helped pare another €2m off Croke Park income last year, leaving it at €20.8m, down €6m on the previous year.
The reduced income was partly due to the €5 cut in ticket prices for Championship games up to the finals. Also, Dublin's presence in the 2010 All-Ireland qualifiers led to increased attendances, whereas last year they advanced to the All-Ireland final via the direct route.
Croke Park remains popular for concerts, which helped yield €3m for the Take That shows last year. Westlife and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers will play Croker this year.
Stadium director Peter McKenna said he was confident Croke Park would continue to be an attractive venue for major events. Operating profit for Croke Park Ltd was down €5.3m last year.
However, McKenna described the results as "positive".
"The decrease is fully attributable to our first full year without the rental income benefits from other sports played in the stadium and demonstrates that our core business activities remain steady, despite unprecedented economic turbulence. Renting the stadium for rugby and soccer flushed our accounts for a few years. That money was ring-fenced for special projects," he said.
Croke Park Ltd repaid a grant of €3.5m to Central Council last year, compared to €7m in 2010. McKenna revealed around 20 corporate boxes were unsold at present while 2,400 long-term tickets were coming on stream in the Davin Stand.
The recession has made it much more difficult to sell suites and long-term tickets than in the boom years but McKenna remains confident they will be taken up.