IN a week when a host of counties revealed worrying financial accounts, Dublin have reported a surplus of €92,000 despite a record-breaking outlay of €2m on preparing inter-county teams in 2011.
Dublin GAA chairman Andy Kettle conceded recently that the unprecedented success of their hurling and football sides, from minor to senior level, was about to break the €2m mark, and this will be borne out by the figures in the financial report which is to be presented to delegates next week.
But Dublin's ability to attract marquee sponsors such as Vodafone and, more recently, Aer Lingus has allowed them -- according to chief executive John Costello -- to end the year "close to budget", and it's understood Dublin's balance for the year will have a surplus of over €92,000.
Those figures are in sharp contrast to Kildare and Waterford, who find themselves in debt to the tune of €200,000 and €120,000 respectively, while Westmeath owe almost €250,000.
In a wide-ranging address, which will be delivered to Dublin's Annual Convention next Monday night, Costello launches a stinging attack on the detractors of 'The Blue Wave' document which outlined, among other things, Dublin's desire to be treated as a fifth province for both funding and administration purposes.
Leinster chief executive Michael Delaney recently dismissed the notion of a 'fifth province' but Costello stressed the need for the county to see all of the document's goals through.
"It's perhaps unsurprising that the publication of our strategic plan was met with a degree of hostility and suspicion in some quarters -- there will always be a cohort that tries to belittle ambition and approaches such issues with a closed mind," Costello writes.
"Not alone is this country financially bankrupt, but culturally it's on its knees also, so when a unit of the association puts its chest out and shows some self-belief, you can expect a stampede headed in your direction.
"You sometimes have to remind yourself what the national games of this country are, as it seems now to be de rigeur to utter such phrases as 'we beat them in their place' when talking about some Premiership team defeating another one.
"What is most important for us as a county is that we remain unflinchingly committed to the clearly defined targets contained in this comprehensive document. It is not an a la carte menu for Gaelic games in the capital; we cannot admire its ambitious content and leave it on the shelf -- achieve the handy objectives and ignore the difficult ones.
"The targets for our county teams contained in the strategy were, ironically, set long before the season commenced. However, aiming to be as successful as Kerry in football and Kilkenny in hurling, cannot be considered unrealistic for a county of our scale."
The other main points of the address include:
Dublin have questioned the future of the provincial structures in the football championship, with Costello suggesting four conferences made up of eight teams each.
This suggestion comes on the back of a report in Galway which backed the introduction of an 'open draw' for the Liam MacCarthy cup.
"While the provincial structure has served the association well since its inception, it is time to restructure the championship to make it more equitable and perhaps breathe new life into the earlier rounds of the competition.
"Perhaps we have played hostage to the constraints of both geography and history for too long and I believe that there is now a mood and appetite for change.
"As the championship currently exists, some counties face long gaps between games and there is a total imbalance between the potential number of games various counties would play if they went on a winning streak from opening round to All-Ireland Sunday.
"I would argue it is now time to set up four conferences with eight counties in each conference. It would be organised along geographical lines and has the potential to give birth to new county rivalries, which, heretofore, were very limited because of provincial divides."
A motion from the St Jude's club in Templeogue, which proposes bringing the dates of the All-Ireland finals forward by two weeks, will go before delegates at Monday's meeting.
All Stars selection
The make-up of this year's All Star football team also comes under fire. Dublin had six representatives, including Footballer of the Year Alan Brogan, but Costello saw inconsistencies in the selection, particularly in relation to defence, where Kevin Nolan (Kilmacud Crokes) was the only Dub selected.
"It is perhaps more than a little unusual that a team which Dublin had beaten on their way to All-Ireland glory (Donegal), that had come in for such criticism by the media (who pick All Stars) and who operated a less successful and far more crude defensive system that Dublin's, was rewarded with more defenders in the All Stars team."
Inter-club transfers in
While the veteran administrator accepted that transfers into various clubs in the capital were an ongoing fact of life for Dublin GAA, Costello stated his belief that there are "other transfers which look to be testing both the eligibility laws and the ethos of our games."
Costello suggested the addition of a bye-law in Dublin which would force players to declare for Dublin if they transferred to the capital might stem the tide.
"A number of clubs have confidentially voiced their concerns over some of these transfers to the county board. Maybe it's time that Dublin introduced their own bye-law that obligated any player who plays club football or hurling in the capital to declare for Dublin?"
There have been a number of high-profile switches to the capital in recent seasons. Parnells have added Laois pair MJ Tierney and Colm Begley, while Mayo's Conor Mortimer is on his way next season. Another Laois man John O'Loughlin won a Dublin championship for St Brigid's this year, while beaten finalists St Oliver Plunketts boasted Meath veteran Anthony Moyles among their ranks, to name but a few.
While Costello backs the introduction of the 'auto free' which, he said, could be "a small but progressive tweaking of our playing rules" he bemoans the inability of some referees to adapt to the evolution of tactics adopted by teams.
"It is both a shame and worth noting that the introduction of such rules is to a large degree necessitated by the inability of some referees to officiate on this aspect of the game as they get outwitted by teams' implementation of negative tactics."
Not for the first time, the Dublin chief questioned the appetite for the International Rules series after a poor turnout by both fans and AFL's top stars. Costello points out that the attendance at this year's two Tests reached just over 35,000.
"Will their best AFL players only reveal a 'passion' to represent their country when the carrot of a fun-filled trip to the northern hemisphere is dangled before them? Clearly, if the Australians are genuine in their commitment, the best marketing brains of the AFL will have to up their game considerably. Otherwise, instead of debating the future of International Rules, we'll be discussing its demise."
The Dublin GAA supremo gives his backing to the decision to trial the score- detection technology in Croke Park but points out that it wouldn't have solved the major rows that erupted last summer, as they happened outside HQ.
"Once again last summer, we had another championship game descend into chaos and post-match recrimination as the Wexford footballers raged over the awarding of a match-winning Limerick point. Even TV replays couldn't be definitive on whether referee Derek Fahy was correct in ruling that Ian Ryan's late free had bisected the Portlaoise posts.
"Of course, if a similar incident were to be replicated at the same venue next summer, Hawk-Eye couldn't settle the dispute either. That's because its use will be confined to GAA headquarters."