Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Inter-county senior teams, like Waterford, will be allowed to return to collective training on April 19. Photo: Inpho.

At last some good news and some light at the end of the tunnel.

Here are the updates on the return of some sports as announced by the Governement this evening.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed that inter-county GAA pre-season can start in earnest from Monday fortnight (April 19) followed by under-age (U-18) non-contact training across all outdoor sports in pods of no more than 15 on April 26.

Golf and tennis are also set to resume from April 26 with golf courses expected to be initially open to members who live in the same county. The Golfing Union of Ireland are to confirm such details.

Full details are to follow from Golf Ireland on tee-time intervals and whether competition play is permitted but it is expected groups will initially be limited to two-balls only.

Golf clubs in the England, Scotland and Wales reopened yesterday and those in Northern Ireland are permitted to open their gates from this Thursday.

The Government has also confirmed that the 5km travel limit will be extended from April 12th to allow people travel within their county or within a 20km radius of their house even if that crosses county lines. That news will come as a welcome relief to golfers who were shut out of their clubs last year because they lived in a different county.

Point-to-Point racing is to resume on April 10.

The Government recommendation for GAA’s return from April 19 states: “Training for and playing of National Governing Body sanctioned and organised adult intercounty National Gaelic Games Leagues not including under 20 or minor competitions.”

Other high-performing athletes, as approved by Sport Ireland, “can resume” the same day.

From April 26, “outdoor sports facilities can reopen (for example: pitches, golf courses and tennis courts, other facilities as appropriate) and “underage non-contact outdoor training and dancing in pods of 15 or fewer can restart.”

The April 19 start date for inter-county training is one week after club training across all ages and grades can resume in Northern Ireland. With the GAA ensuring a four-week run-in to prepare for the season, it means the earliest the first competitive games will take place is the weekend of May 15/16.

The golfers of Waterford will be back on the tees and greens on April 26.

The Central Competitions Control Committee will discuss plans for the season after the GAA’s Covid-19 advisory group meet to recommend an official start date and updated return to play protocols.

According to former GAA president John Horan last month, the GAA will be able to complete a full 2021 season should games commence in May.

“If we got going in May, in comparison to last year when it was towards the end of July that we got started, I’d be confident that we will get the games programmes in place and we will get all activities completed.

“We’d have that extra time period from May to July that we didn’t have last year. I am quite confident that a games programme will be there to do the National League, a full club programme, and also the inter-county championship.”

Truncated, geographically-based Allianz Leagues lasting no more than five weeks followed by Championships run on the same format as last year, a knock-out Sam Maguire Cup and a Liam MacCarthy qualifier system, have been mooted.

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