DESPITE stating that they're still working on finding new sponsors for their county teams, Dublin could be set to announce Vodafone as their new partners as early as next Monday.
The Dublin County Board have refused to divulge the identity of any of the companies seeking to replace Arnotts as sponsors but it has been known since last month that Vodafone have been leading contenders.
A Vodafone spokesperson said yesterday: "Given we are currently in negotiations, we are not in a position to share any details at this point."
However, it's understood that a deal is close to being finalised although it won't come before Sunday, which means that Dublin will have no sponsor's logo on their jerseys for the O'Byrne Cup clash against Wexford at Parnell Park.
It was reported last month that Vodafone were set to complete a six-year deal worth a minimum of €800,000 per annum (with performance-related extras depending on how far Dublin progress in the championship) but negotiations dragged on in what is thought to be a complex arrangement.
Other companies linked with the Dublin sponsorship at various stages included Meteor, Bank of Ireland, Ikea and Nokia.
Arnotts announced last summer that their long association with Dublin would end after the championship, leaving the County Board with several months to find a replacement for the start of the 2010 season.
The fact that no deal has been signed in time for the start of the campaign underlines the complexities of finding a suitable sponsor for a county which has the highest following in the country for its senior football team. Clearly, the Dublin County Board has been driving a hard bargain, even if their hand was weakened by the tough economic climate; there has been serious downward pressure on asking prices for sponsors at all levels.
Dublin's problems have been compounded by the failure to make any real impact at All-Ireland level since winning the title in 1995.
Nevertheless, the footballers remain the flagship product for Dublin, although the hurlers have made decent progress in recent seasons.
While the absence of a sponsor for pre-season games is not a problem, it would be embarrassing if they didn't have a backer in place for the start of the National League in February when they take on All-Ireland champions Kerry. However, that seems most unlikely as industry sources are adamant that a deal with Vodafone is only days from being announced.
Sponsoring a county with such a large population holds plenty attraction for companies, especially those who can tap directly into a specific target-area.
Arnotts benefited enormously from the replica jersey market, and Dublin are also attractive to mobile phone companies because of the potential for various deals with clubs and the general public.
If, as expected, Vodafone take over as Dublin sponsors, the question of their involvement with the All-Ireland football championships and the All Stars scheme will come under review. Vodafone are currently joint sponsors of the football championship and sole backers of the All Stars but whether they would remain involved with either is open to speculation if they linked up with Dublin in an expensive deal.