The government's Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business has offered some light at the end of the tunnel for sport.
A document released on Friday night, outlines a five-phase return to a semblance of normality.
Sport in Ireland has been on hold since mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with governing bodies unable to provide any specificity regarding a return to action.
The GAA championships have been postponed, with club action their priority for a resumption.
The FAI have been working with clubs and the players' association (PFAI) on a range of scenarios within which the SSE Airtricity League may resume.
But Friday's document provides some genuine clarity on a route back for the first time.
The phases will unfurl (based on a 3-week review process on the following dates:
- Phase 1: May 18
- Phase 2: June 8
- Phase 3: June 29
- Phase 4: July 20
- Phase 5: August 10
May 18 will see the opening of "outdoor public sports amenities (e.g. pitches, tennis courts, golf courses etc) where social distancing can be maintained."
People will be permitted to: "Engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, either individually or in very small groups (maximum 4 people), where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact."
June 8 will: "Permit people to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving small group team sports training (but not matches) where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact".
This should facilitate teams begin to train separately while still maintaining social distancing and no contact.
June 29 will: "Permit “behind closed doors” sporting activities events where arrangements are in place to enable participants to maintain social distancing".
July 20 looks like being a pivotal day in Irish sport.
The government's roadmap suggests:
- Permit sports team leagues (e.g. soccer and GAA) but only where limitations are placed on the numbers of spectators and where social distancing can be maintained.
- Open public swimming pools where effective cleaning can be carried out and social distancing can be maintained
Rugby, however, will be the latest sport to return to 'normal'.
It's among those listed in Phase 5 (Aug 10), as is the return of spectators (albeit in restricted numbers while also adhering to social distancing.
The measures outlined from August 10 are:
- Permit close physical contact sports (rugby, boxing, wrestling)
- Open gyms, exercise, dance studios and sports clubs, only where regular and effective cleaning can be carried out and social distancing can be maintained.
- Permit sports spectatorship which involve mass gatherings only in accordance with both indoor and outdoor numbers restrictions and where social distancing can be complied with.