Inter-county squads returning to training are being encouraged by the GAA's Covid Advisory group to avoid the use of dressing rooms as much as possible in the coming weeks.
While dressing rooms are permitted and were used during last year's remaining football league games and championships, the "key message" from the Covid Advisory group in advance of Monday's official return is that indoor gatherings are to be avoided "where possible."
"We would strongly encourage you to explore alternatives or minimise usage as much as possible. Keeping the majority of your interactions outdoors is the key measure to follow if you wish to ensure the safety of players and support personnel," a note from GAA president Larry McCarthy and Director-General Tom Ryan has advised.
With warmer weather and longer evenings, the Covid Advisory Group believes conditions are more amenable for avoiding dressing-rooms than they were last October, November and December, thereby limiting the scope for 'close' contacts rather than 'casual' contacts which is the more likely determination in an outdoor setting.
Last year some counties, notably Kilkenny, did not use dressing-rooms at all and erected a canopy at the back of the Hogan Stand on match days which they used before, at half-time and after the three matches they played in Croke Park.
The GAA has identified the use of gyms, the use of dressing-rooms, meeting rooms, pre and post match meals, collective travel and overnight accommodation as the most likely source for close contact determination that "require careful planning and the implementation of strict control measures."
Team photographs, huddles, celebrations involving physical contact and handshaking are all discouraged again.
The GAA's guidelines, issued to clubs and counties, follow similar lines to last year with a direction not to hold more than three team gatherings per week so that they can be spaced out 48 hours apart.
Guidance on the numbers allowed on match days is also being sought, a contentious point from last year as those outside the official 26-man squads were not granted access to games.
The numbers were capped at 40 by the GAA for 2020, 26 players, 12 backroom and medical staff and two county board officers.
The latest published statutory instrument published specifies that only necessary personnel can still attend games but for All-Ireland finals last year, extra squad members were allowed to travel.
“Guidance on numbers permitted to attend games being played behind closed doors (i.e. panel numbers and numbers of backroom personnel permitted) will be provided separately by the three Gaelic Games Associations ahead of a return to games and once clarity has been provided by Government in this context,” the update advises.
Inter-county players are being advised to travel separately to training, unless they are with family members while buses will again be restricted to 25 per cent of capacity for those who choose that mode of transport.
A 26-man squad could conceivably travel to games on two buses, 13 in each, but backroom team members and county board officers would have to take a third bus, driving up costs.
Inter-county players will once again have access to rapid testing. Last year agreement was reached for a initial saliva test to be conducted for any squads which wished to undergo them out of concern, followed by a PCR test.
The take-up, however, was very small despite the concerns initially expressed during the second wave in October.
All teams will again be obliged to fill in health questionnaires prior to training while Covid officers for each team must be put in place.
The main message around the return to underage training is the avoidance of congregation by parents and guardians while the teams train.