The €2.6m point
JOE Canning's equalising point in last year's Galway-Kilkenny hurling final yielded an extra €2.6m for the GAA, taking total gate receipts for the All-Ireland senior championships to €21.6m, an increase of €2.9m on 2011.
It helped to swell overall Central Council (Croke Park) income – provinces and counties are run independently – to €52.8m, an increase of 13pc on 2011.
It's a highly satisfactory situation for the GAA at a time of deep recession, especially since last year's championships were competing for media exposure with such high-profile international events as the European soccer championships and the Olympic Games.
"We thought it might have an adverse effect but our figures suggest that was not the case," said GAA financial director Tom Ryan.
Even without the replayed All-Ireland hurling final, gate receipts would have been similar to 2011. An All-Ireland final usually yields around €4.6m but the return from the second Galway-Kilkenny clash was down to €2.6m due to reduced ticket prices.
Ryan said that the cut had proved very successful as demand for tickets was way above what would usually be expected for a replay.
Normally, heavy demand for replay tickets comes from the competing counties only but that did not apply last year when there was nationwide interest in attending the third Galway-Kilkenny championship game of the season.
"By reducing the replay ticket price from €80 to €50, we consciously decided to forego upwards of €1m in deference to the hard-pressed supporters. GAA patrons know that they are valued for more than their money and I fully expect the €1m investment to be repaid in terms of goodwill in the years ahead," said Ryan.
Gate receipts for the Allianz Hurling League were up €120,000 on 2011 but football decreased by €355,000, despite the addition of semi-finals in Division 1 for the first time since 2007. The Cork v Down and Kerry v Mayo semi-final double-header yielded a modest return of €78,000. The total return from the leagues was €3.2m.
Overall attendances at the 2012 championships were 1,360,071, an increase of 34,118 on the previous year. That was bolstered by the 82,274 who attended the Galway-Kilkenny replay.
GAA director general Paraic Duffy confirmed that there will be no increase in the price of All-Ireland championship tickets this year. However, Croke Park has no jurisdiction over provincial council prices.
Despite the solid performance last year, Ryan warns that nothing can be taken for granted in a very difficult economic climate.
"The prevailing environment is no less difficult than in recent years and requires ever-increasing vigilance and innovation in order for us to continue to prosper," he said.
He also strikes a cautionary note about the financial welfare of county boards and clubs, pointing out that Central Council's healthy revenues are not replicated across the country.
"Every club and county finds itself having to reduce costs, and there is a clear obligation on Central Council to make as much funding as possible available to all our units," said Ryan.
"In 2012, the total distributed for on-going day-to-day purposes was €11.3m. Unfortunately, I am acutely aware than in many cases, this is not sufficient.
"Encouragingly, the number of counties who reported operating losses in 2012 has reduced substantially from the previous year. So clearly our units are doing their utmost (to keep costs down). We are doing the same at Central Council level."
However, operating costs grew by €1.6m last year due to a different time-span for accounting (10 months in 2011 as opposed to 12 months in 2012) plus a difficulty in finding any more areas to squeeze.
"Nevertheless, our target for next year is to reduce again by a further €500,000. That will mean an extra €500,000 to invest in games, or to distribute to counties, so it's vital that we achieve it," he said.
Capital investment in grounds and other facilities has increased dramatically since the onset of the recession and is likely to continue for some time. A total of €6.4m was spent on capital projects last year.
Croke Park is committed to contributing £15m to the redevelopment of Casement Park, Belfast and will also part-fund the ambitious project in Pairc Ui Chaoimh but, as yet, no figure has been set.
Croke Park Ltd (which runs the stadium) also had a good year in 2012. It took in €24.7m and spent €15.7m, prior to allocating €4m to Central Council. Rent for games returned €8.3m, mostly from Central Council fixtures.
The Leinster Council was the other main contributor, paying €870,000 for their championship games.
Corporate facilities yielded over €10m, while the hire of Croke Park for concerts and other events returned €4.4m.