With huge financial challenges now facing many counties in the years ahead, the task of widening and creating new revenue streams is reaching new levels.

One county facing into the task with particular determination is Leitrim.

Between 60-65% of their inter-county senior football and hurling panels live outside Leitrim at the moment, which provides particular obstacles.

Drawing from the smallest population in the country – just over 32,000 according to the Census 2016 report – Leitrim administrator Brian Blake says that thinking outside the box will be crucial for the county in the coming years.

"New fundraising is vital to us," Blake told RTÉ Sport.

"As our supporters' club annual draw was our only fundraiser, taking in around €100,000 yearly, we knew we had to do more to keep the required support in place for our teams.

"Leitrim isn't blessed with big multinational companies and depends on the support of a lot of small businesses, most of whom were closed, and indeed our main sponsor JP Clarke's in New York was also closed due to Covid.

"In fact, out of 17 sponsors, 75% were closed at times during Covid."

Another issue is that so many of the teams senior inter-county hurling and football panels live outside of Leitrim.

"Around 60% of both our football and hurling teams are based outside our county and this has a major bearing on finance," the Leitrim administrator adds.

"This means that 33% (around €100,000) of our overall spend on these teams last year was player travel. This is a major problem for counties on the west coast.

"For the two senior inter-county teams, we have one of the lowest spends in the country, costing around €20,000 per week."

New ideas are always welcome, and Leitrim are progressing well on that front.

At the top of the year, they raised over €100,000 through their ambitious '50 Miles in January’ challenge which saw supporters at home and across the world running, walking or soloing 50 miles in unforgiving weather conditions.

"That campaign brought everyone together in a way," says Blake. "It showed the unity there and through hard work from our supporters clubs in Dublin, Leitrim and New York, it kind of unified the county.

"With the significance of the financial challenges ahead, we will look at doing it again next year. But whatever we do has got to be creative. We have our centre of excellence, Páirc Seán (Mac Diarmada). Then there are our teams and clubs. All of these units have to be maintained and attended to.

"The simple truth is that without the help of the GAA and Government we would not be able to look after our county teams properly as they get ready for the new season."

With that in mind, the supporters group Cairde Liatroma came up with a new, novel idea – the 'Win a Wedding’ fundraising campaign, which runs until July.

"In GAA terms I think this is a pretty unique idea," Blake adds. "Again, people just thinking outside the box. In the current climate some couples are planning weddings and it’s not easy. Some may want small, intimate affairs or else, when Covid hopefully clears, a bigger celebration. This competition will cater for both.

"We’ve teamed up with Lough Rynn Castle Estate and Gardens for this campaign and the prize is a fully paid wedding, valued at €25,000 for 150 guests. The hope is to raise a similar amount to what we managed in January and to help supplement our costs for the year ahead."

Blake, also a member of Benny Guckian’s under-20 football backroom, says their new drive has gone down very well so far.

"Like any other county there are tough times ahead, but you don’t give up on something," he says.

"We are lucky that between the committees, supporters and our executive that there are hardworking people driving this.

"There is a year-to-year budget that we have to meet, and we will do what we can to stay within that."

With the Government yesterday outlining a potential return for spectators to games later this summer, this news would be a massive boost to the county, Blake adds.

"In terms of gate receipts, it would be a massive help get a crowd of 200-300 people on a regular basis into club games in Páirc Seán, which has an official capacity of 12,000. That would make a big difference to us.

"Last year, our club streaming brought in around €30,000 after costs and it was very beneficial. It was also lovely to see pics of Leitrim people in London or New York sitting in their homes watching Leitrim club football.

"So, streaming has opened up a new market for us. Even with streaming and small crowds coming back we won’t be anywhere near the pre-Covid income levels but, still, we will be filling a hole.

"The point I’d make is that while the pandemic has stopped us playing as often as we’d like and has halted income streams for a long period, I think in Leitrim, GAA people have been brought closer together. There is a huge buzz now with training back and games on the horizon.

"It’s up to us then to keep the shoulder to the wheel and do as much as we can.

"The ‘Win A Wedding’ idea is novel, and the first 1,000 tickets offered are at €22.50 each. We have seen many people buy tickets as a gift as the prize is valid up to January 2025.

"Good people and forward thinking will drive us on for the next few years with so many usual income streams affected."