By Oisín Bradley
Many key sporting organisations across Ireland have been given a renewed sense of hope and optimism following the release of new government restrictions, some of which have a significant impact on sports.
Last Tuesday, the Government announced their plans to ease some of the restrictions which have been in place since late December as part of the ‘Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery Plan 2021’ program. Upon glancing through the document, there were a few changes to the current rules that would catch the eye of those involved in sport both locally and nationally.
One of the key changes announced was the decision to permit the return of Senior inter-county GAA training and games. Per the announcement, from April 19th there can be a full return to all gaelic games, including Ladies’ Football and Camogie, as well as the return of League competitions such as the Allianz Leagues, the Lidl National Football League and The Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues.
The announcement will be news to the ears of all involved in under-age sport as well, with the news that there is to be a resumption of underage training from the 26th of April. There will be some restrictions in place, such as the specification of training being non-contact and the limit of 15 people per training session, however many will likely be pleased at the option to get back to some form of action in the coming weeks.
Other sports that are considered ‘elite’ with high-performing athletes will also be given the green light to return to action providing they are granted clearance by Sport Ireland.
The GAA have stated that come the end of the week they will be releasing their roadmap on how they plan on returning to competition in the near future. In a statement from the President of the organization Larry McCarthy and Director General Tom Ryan, the pair confirmed that the organization would plan to have the findings of their discussions by the end of the week.
“We need to finalise competition structures and dates for the upcoming inter-county season, as well as ensuring advice is provided for all clubs in relation to how they can safely recommence underage activity (and in the case of the Six Counties, adult club training from April 12th).
“We also hope to have finalised updated versions of our Return to Play documents for both inter-county and club activity ahead of the stated dates for resumption North and South of the border.”
The CEO of the Football Association of Ireland Jonathan Hill welcomed the news that underage players would be celebrating a return to training in the near future, whilst also praising those members outside of the League of Ireland and Womens’ National League for their patience.
“Non-contact training in pods of 15 represents the start of a return for our game that will see all our players at all ages permitted to train and then to play in what we hope will be the near future. This battle with Covid-19 has been so demanding for Irish society and our footballers have had to endure so much in Level five lockdown.
“We thank them for their perseverance and their patience.”
Golf and tennis players have also been handed a big boost with the news that both sports will be amongst the list of sports given permission to resume activities on the 26th.