- Guidelines for Inter-County Training 3/4

(19 Apr 2021)

Covid-19: Return to Training and Play Guidelines for Inter County


1. Introduction and Context
2. Medical Information
1. Background Information
2. Transmission of Virus
3. Symptoms
4. Staying Safe - 6 Rules to Follow
5. Assessing Risk/Vulnerable Groups
6. Adult and Underage Groups
7. Health Questionnaire/Temperature Checks
3. Basic Information for Coaches and Team Personnel
1. Close and Casual Contacts
2. Training sessions
3. Gyms and Indoor Fitness Facilities
4. Matchday Panel and Backroom Team composition
5. Pre-match meals/meetings
6. Travel
7. Match Day and Stadium Provisions
8. Dressing Room
9. Pitchside
10. Showers
11. Management Team Kit/Accessories
12. Pools
13. Meals
14. Hotel Rooms
15. Dealing with positive Symptomatology
16. Treatment of Players (Medical and Massage)
17. COVID-19 Vaccinations
18. Testing Programme
19. Match Officials
20. Individual Responsibility


Introduction and Context
The Covid-19 Advisory Group has reviewed this guidance document to inform and facilitate
the safe resumption of intercounty activities within the Gaelic Games family. First published in
2020, the Guidelines were approved by the Irish Government’s Expert Advisory Group on
Return to Sport
The GAA, Ladies Gaelic Football and Camogie Associations have ensured to date that any
proposals and recommendations in relation to the resumption of activities and the reopening
of facilities has complied with best guidance as provided by the Governments and National
Health agencies on the island of Ireland.
These guidelines outline and define recommended practice for the recommencement of inter
county activities in a manner which preserves the safety of players, management and support
teams. The efforts of players, coaches, medics, backroom personnel, match officials and
Administrators in 2020 in ensuring that the guidelines in this document were diligently
followed was a key reason for the success of the season. It will be even more important this
year in ensuring a safe and enjoyable year for everyone involved,
The priority at all times must be to protect the health and welfare of all those involved with
Gaelic Games and to minimise the risk of transmission within the wider community.
Participation is voluntary; players, mentors, backroom personnel, match officials and officers
may choose to opt-in or opt-out from activity at any level at their discretion.
Finally, it should be noted that this is a working document and may change as new health
advice or changes in Government regulations become available.

Shay Bannon
Covid Advisory Group
Aibreán 2021




1. Background Information
COVID-19 is a viral infection which is highly infectious and contagious. COVID-19 disease is
caused by infection with a virus, technically named SARS-CoV-2 virus, is a newly identified
(novel) virus and the seventh (7th) Coronavirus known to infect humans. The resulting viral
illness is referred to as COVID-19 disease. This virus is in the same coronavirus family as
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV or SARS) and Middle East
Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV or MERS), which caused the two previous
coronavirus epidemic outbreaks, and have similar physical and biochemical properties and
comparable transmission routes as COVID-19.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience no symptoms or mild to
moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Those who
are infected may be infectious for 48 hours before symptoms appear. Based on current
knowledge, younger healthy people are less likely to develop severe symptoms. However, if
infected, they may spread the disease to their families, friends, colleagues, and
The first vaccine was approved by the European Medicines Agency in December 2020 and
vaccination programmes are currently being rolled out North and South of the border. The
vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease. For those individuals who have
been fully vaccinated there is not change to the current infection prevention and control
guidelines outlined below. There is no specific antiviral treatment for this infection.
2. Transmission of Virus
SARS CoV2 is spread from person to person through:
● droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.
● close contact with an infected person while they are infectious (in particular by
spending more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an
infected person or living in the same house or shared accommodation)
● touching surfaces that are contaminated by droplets coughed or sneezed from
an infected person and bringing your unwashed hands to your face
3. Symptoms
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) to appear; however,
most people develop symptoms between 5-6 days. Individuals may have no symptoms
but have the virus and pass the infection to others. Virus shedding appears to be highest
at the time of symptom onset and just before the onset of symptoms.
Common symptoms of coronavirus include:
● a fever (high temperature of 37.5° C (degrees Celsius or above)
● a cough - this can be any kind of cough, not just a dry cough
● shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
● loss of sense of smell (anosmia)
● loss of sense of taste (ageusia) or distortion of sense of taste (dysgeusia)


Less common symptoms of coronavirus include:
• diarrhoea
• aches & pains
• conjunctivitis
• rash
• chilblains on fingers/toes
4. Staying Safe - 6 Rules to Follow
Safe return to contact sports is the personal responsibility of each player/backroom
(1) Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash
them with soap and water (for 20 seconds). Washing your hands with soap and water
or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
(2) Maintain social distancing
Observe social distancing guidelines and keep this distance between yourself and
others, especially anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or
sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain
virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including COVID-19 if the
person coughing has the disease.
(3) Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Hands touch many surfaces and surface to hand transfer can spread the virus. Once
contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there,
the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
(4) Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This
means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough
or sneeze. If using tissues, you should dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash
your hands. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you
from all viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
(5) Face coverings and masks
The use of face coverings is required in certain prescribed settings as outlined by the
HSE. These are predominantly indoor settings and busy outdoor spaces where a lot of
people gather. All players and backroom personnel should familiarize themselves with
these settings and follow the additional advice contained elsewhere in this document.
(6) If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
Call your GP or speak to your Team Doctor. DO NOT VISIT THE DOCTOR’S SURGERY OR
GAA FACILITY. Stay home if you feel unwell. Follow the directions of your GP and public
health service. This will protect you and help prevent spread of viruses.


5. Health Questionnaire/Temperature Checks
Prior to each training session or game, and until further notice, players and backroom
personnel must complete the self-administered standard risk assessment health
questionnaire which you can view here (A sample is also included as Appendix 1).
Symptoms such as a high temperature, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and change in taste or
smell will be identified.
The presence of symptoms, or temperature (over 37.5°C) precludes attendance at training or
games. In such circumstances, the individual should telephone their GP or Team Doctor
for advice and management.


REMEMBER: Positive symptomatology or temperature over 37.5°c precludes attendance.


Section 2 – Basic Information for Players and Backroom Personnel

1. Close and Casual Contacts
Importance of ‘Casual’ vs. ‘Close’ contact
It is important to ensure insofar as is possible that playing and training activities allow Public
Health to deem participants as ‘Casual’ rather than “Close” contacts in the event of a positive
case of Covid within the team environment.
Failure to do so could result in an entire team or panel being forced to isolate for 14 days and
ultimately their inability to fulfil fixtures and exclusion from a competition.
The success in 2020 of the Return to Play Protocols, and our ability to complete the games
programme was largely predicated on the basis that contact between those involved was
generally deemed ‘Casual’ and not ‘Close’ once all of the recommended control measures
were adhered to.
This allowed reported incidents to be dealt with on an individual basis, without putting teams,
officials or opponents in jeopardy from a contact tracing point of view.
More information on Close and Casual contacts is available from the HSE here

Potential ‘Close’ Contact scenarios
The following scenarios require careful planning and the implementation of strict control
measures by those involved with inter county panels.
 Use of a Gym or other indoor training facility.
 Use of dressing rooms (including showers)
 Pre and Post match/training meals
 Meetings for tactical analysis or game preparation.
 Collectively travelling to and from games/training.
 Overnight accommodation

As a general rule, teams should avoid using indoor facilities where possible. Where this is
not possible, the amount of time players, management and support teams spend
together in a confined space (team meetings, travelling, in dressing rooms, in showers
etc) should be controlled and minimised. Social distancing and hand hygiene should be
practiced whenever possible, and masks as per national guidelines, should be used at all
times in closed spaces.
All playing and backroom personnel must have completed the Health Questionnaire before
each training session or game they are attending.
The protocols that follow have been developed on the basis that, insofar as is reasonably
practicable, any contacts between players, mentors and support staff, will remain 'Casual' by


2. Training Sessions
Counties are strongly advised to leave a clear 48 hours between collective sessions – this will
help significantly to limit infection risk and minimize potential close contact designation.
For this reason and in order to minimize risk generally, it is strongly advised that in 2021,
collective training sessions are limited to no more than 3 per week (or 2 plus a game) for all
Counties. If players are attending additional gym sessions individually or in small groups, they
should ensure to follow the advice in part 3 (below) in relation to this.
Control measures for Training sessions should be conducted in line with the Safe Return to
Gaelic Games document (available here). Each team returning to training will need to ensure
a) This document has been circulated to all players and team personnel intending to return.
b) Each team has a nominated Covid Supervisor who has completed the online education
module (Each County can create a ‘Team’ in Foireann which allows them to designate
Supervisors and players. This will allow each Supervisor to review the Health
Questionnaires submitted by each player. More information is available at:
c) All participants have, within the last 12 months, completed the Gaelic Games online
education module available here.
d) A system is in place for completion of health questionnaires for each session and game –
this applies to players, support personnel, county officers etc; in short anyone who is
attending a training session. A link to the online Health Questionnaire is available here.
All warms ups, at both Training and games, should be conducted outdoors. Indoor warm-up
areas should not be used.
Training Camps involving overnight stays will not be permitted in 2021.
3. Gyms and Indoor Fitness Facilities
As part of the Inter County Return to play process, County teams will be permitted to use
available Gym facilities with strict public health protocols in place. . If gym work, or aspects of
it, can be conducted outdoors, then risk of transmission of the virus is dramatically reduced.
Ideally Gym activity indoors should be conducted on an individual basis or in very small groups
Where indoor gym activity is taking place, the following advice – taken from the Ireland Active
Framework for Safe Operation - should be followed:
• Social distancing of 2m should always be maintained
• Participants should not congregate before or after activities, and facilities should design
internal flows to reflect this.
• Facilities should plan for a maximum of 1 person/4 square metres* (2mx2m) and in
accordance with government advice on maximum capacities for indoor activities.


• Ensure adequate ventilation, avoiding recycling of air to avoid possibility of infection, in
accordance with HSE/HSA guidance
• Carry out frequent cleaning of surfaces and wipe downs of contact surfaces with single
use disinfectant wipes or strong disinfectants and microfibre cloths.
• Users should not share towels, water bottles etc.
• All of the standard infection control guidance from the HSE should be heeded.
• There should be no hands-on adjustments or physical contact during training sessions.
• Spacing of exercise machines/equipment should be undertaken to ensure 2m distance in
between equipment. An alternative may be to use every second piece of equipment or the
closing of certain stationary equipment to ensure 2m distancing.
• Equipment which is 2m apart should not be placed where exercisers are facing each
• Spin bikes should be staggered and spaced 2m apart to avoid spray back.
• Loose equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells, free weights etc. should be used by one
exerciser and cleaned in between each use by users/staff.
• Booking of time slots should be employed in order to enable safe management and
recording of users in the facility.
• Where spotting of weights is being undertaken, face coverings should be worn
Current practices for fitness/training instruction should be reviewed by team management in
accordance with the above and to limit and reduce the number of players and coaches in the
gym at any one time.
Reservation and check-in/check-out systems should be implemented that will limit the
number of players and coaching staff in the facility (employees should be included in the
All areas, within the gym, where social distancing is particularly challenging should be kept
closed - Players should not enter the gym facility prior to their assigned reservation.
Adequate signage and reminders should be provided at entrances and in strategic places
within the gym providing instruction on social distancing, hand hygiene, use of cloth face
coverings or masks, and cough and sneeze etiquette.
The use of other indoor fitness facilities (such as sports halls) is strongly discouraged.


4. Match Day Panel and Backroom Team Composition
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
seperately by the three Gaelic Games Associations ahead of a return to games and once
clarity has been provided by Government in this context.

5. Pre-match meal/meeting
Teams should meet no more than 3 hours before scheduled game time for pre-match
meal and game prep (e.g. neuromuscular activation). Where possible, teams should not
gather indoors in a group for pre or post-match meals – ideally players should take their
food and eat it alone.
It is recognized however that this may not always be possible – if groups are having a sit
down meal, and again to minimise the risk of disease transmission, numbers should be
reduced to an absolute minimum. Counties should consider whether individuals can
eat at home and meet up 1 hour beforehand as an alternative. Numbers should at all
times be in line with what can be facilitated to maintain appropriate social distancing.
Masks should be worn at all times indoors - meetings, bus, dressing rooms and pitch-side
for support staff and substitutes (unless they are warming up or entering the game). The
Team Manager/Maor Fóirne are not obliged to wear facemasks during a game but it is
6. Travelling to the Ground
In order to minimize risk, players should travel to training individually, unless they are
members of the same household.
If travelling by bus, the capacity of the bus should be reduced to 25% until further notice.
Face coverings should be worn for the duration of the journey.


7. Match Day and Stadium Provisions
Parking areas will be provided for all team personnel in proximity to the ground. Parking
passes should be distributed in advance. Designated staggered arrival times are
recommended for each team to avoid congestion at entry point.
A complete and accurate list of names must be provided to ground management and a
designated entrance for players (and backroom staff) used to facilitate the accreditation
Designated and identifiable (usually stickers) seating will be provided for all substitutes
and backroom officials at the ground in line with social distancing guidelines. Team dug
outs are not to be used.
All warm-ups should be outdoors - Indoor warm up areas should not be used.
In order to reduce risk it is important to refrain from the following activities:
 Team huddles
 Team photographs
 Shaking hands with other players and personnel
 Celebrations and commiserations involving close physical contact
A designated isolation room will be available in each ground. Hand sanitising facilities
should be available to all players, backroom staff and officials in all key areas.
Dressing rooms should be deep cleaned in line with public health guidance after each
session and/or match.
8. Dressing Room Use
Where teams can operate without using Dressing Rooms, they are strongly encouraged to
do so. Where they cannot, time spent in dressing rooms should be minimised as should
numbers occupying dressing rooms. Counties should consider the provision of out-door
sheltered facilities which are fully ventilated to minimize time spent indoors during summer
months (e.g. canopies/gazebos)
For training sessions, and if using dressing rooms, only venues where the relevant team will
have access to two dressing rooms can be used.
On match days, only venues where four dressing rooms (2 per team) are available should be
used for inter county games, unless by agreement one or other county decides not to utilize
dressing rooms.
Dressing rooms should be vacated as soon as is practical post-match; post-match
celebrations are not allowed in dressing rooms. If the same dressing rooms at a given venue
are being used for more than one game (i.e. in the event of a double header), there should
be a clear period of at least one hour between usage by different teams to allow for a deep


clean of each dressing room and shower area.
9. Pitch-side
Clearly marked Personal bottles, or Single-use bottles should be used for fluid intake.
Everybody (with the exception of the players on the field of play, those who are
warming up and the Team Manager/Maor Fóirne) should be wearing face coverings.
Medics should be wearing gloves +/- plastic aprons
Designated Seating will be provided for all personnel in the arena (subs and backroom
10. Showers
For the intercounty season, and where feasible, players are advised to shower at home.
However, it is accepted, that this will not always be possible and thus alternative provisions
should be in place.
The Covid relevant risks associated with showering can be significantly reduced if Players
apply soap/sanitizer, enter the shower area for a short period, and exit in a single line. The
rationale is that liberal application of soap/sanitizer and minimal time in the shower, while
not eliminating the risk completely, reduces risk to acceptable levels. Entrance and egress
to/from Shower facility should be supervised.
11. Management Team Kit/Accessories
In general terms, each player should be responsible for his/her own gear when attending
training or games. One member of the backroom team/coach should be designated in
charge of cleaning and disinfecting of any shared equipment before, during and after all
Jerseys or bibs should not be swapped during a training session or game and should be
washed at the highest temperature after every use.
12. Swimming pools
Collective Recovery sessions in swimming pools are not recommended for the 2021 season
13. Meals
Where possible, teams should not gather indoors in a group for pre or post-match
meals – ideally players should take their food and eat it alone. It is recognized however
that this may not always be possible – if groups are having a sit down meal, and again
to minimise the risk of disease transmission, numbers should be reduced to an absolute
minimum and social distancing must be observed.
When eating after training, disposable plates or takeaway cartons should be available.
Players should be served and not touch anything except their own plate.


14. Hotel Rooms
Where Hotel rooms are being used, it is important that the relevant facilities are following
Fáilte Ireland guidelines for the management of Covid-19. Travelling team/management
should have rooms, toilets and public areas that are restricted insofar as reasonably
possible. Where teams are staying overnight, all players and backroom personnel should be
accommodated in single rooms (Exception: members of the same household)
For purposes of reducing risk, teams should not stay overnight unless they are travelling
more than 130 miles to a game.
15. Dealing with positive symptomatology
If a player, match or team official displays positive symptoms he/she should refrain from
further activities until the following steps have been undertaken

Individual with symptoms contacts GP/Team Doctor to arrange triage and testing if required

Positive Test Negative Test

NO FURTHER ACTION (Player should be symptom
free for 48 hours before returning to activity)

Contact tracing takes place by public health authorities who will determine who are close or

casual contacts

Players/backroom personnel follow advice of Public Health if they fall into one of the below


Close Contact Casual Contact

Will be Tested
Will undergo active follow up from Public Health
You also need to restrict your movements (stay
at home) for 14 days.
You can stop restricting your movements when
both apply:
 You have a negative COVID-19 test
(COVID-19 not detected) 10 days after
you were last in contact with the person
who tested positive.
 You do not have any symptoms of
medical assessment and clearance to return

You may have been in contact with someone
with COVID-19, but you do not meet the
definition to be a close contact.
If you are a casual contact, you do not need
to restrict your movements. Continue to
follow the advice on how to protect yourself
and others.
If you are a casual contact, you do not need to
be tested
as long as symptom free


Further information on Close and Casual Contacts can be accessed on the HSE website HERE
16. Treatment of Players (Medical/Massage)
Doctors, Physiotherapists or Massage Therapists, when treating players should follow the
relevant guidelines for their profession.
As a general rule, where treatment is taking place indoors, it should be limited to two people
(the practitioner and the player) with the practitioner ensuring to wear appropriate PPE and
the player a mask.
17. Covid vaccinations
While it is a matter for the individual participants involved, COVID vaccination is
recommended for all in line with NIAC and HSE guidelines.
18. Testing
As in 2020, the GAA will again have a rapid testing programme in place for when a player or
backroom member tests positive in the week of a game. Further details on this will issue
separately in due course.
In the interim, the advice outlined above on dealing with positive symptomatology
should prevail.
19. Match Officials
Separate and specific Return to Play advice will be provided to Match Officials from the
GAA, LGFA and Camogie Associations.
20. Individual Responsibility
It is emphasized that standard precautions are taken with regards to handwashing,
social distancing, face coverings and that minimal time should be spent in confined
All participants need to be aware that their activities, away from training or the field of
play can impact on risk and therefore on the team as a whole. As with society in general,
but most particularly in the context of the inter-county season, participants need to
ensure, insofar as possible, that the number of “close contacts” in their daily lives should
be kept to a minimum.
The continued good health of all of those involved and the successful completion of the
2021 Inter County season will depend on the discipline and commitment of all
participants to following best practice both during their Gaelic Games activities and in
their daily lives away from the game.

GAA Covid Advisory Group, Aibreán 2021

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