The GAA's Covid advisory group has determined that it would be irresponsible to permit a return to collective training at this time.

But the specialist committee, established to help the association navigate its way through the pandemic, says it was encouraged by the ongoing reduction in case numbers.

It will reconvene in just over two weeks to assess the matter again.

Indeed, in a note to county officials, GAA director general Tom Ryan and GAA president John Horan maintain that "the commencement of competitions in the month of March is a definite possibility".

At a meeting held yesterday evening, the question of a return to training for senior inter-county teams was considered.

"It was the view of the group that the incidence of the virus in the community remains at a level where it would be irresponsible for the GAA to permit a return to collective training at this moment in time," Ryan and Horan said in the note.

"However, the group did welcome the significant and ongoing reduction in case numbers over the course of the last number of weeks and it was agreed to reconvene on the week commencing 15 February to further consider the matter.

"As the situation with the virus remains fluid, it is unfortunately impossible for the association to put definitive dates in place for when inter-county training or games may resume.

"However, there are positive indications in terms of the reduction of case numbers and the continued roll out of the Covid vaccine and as such, the commencement of competitions in the month of March is a definite possibility."

Tom Ryan

Ryan confirmed to county officials that the GAA remains committed to providing at least a four-week window for teams between the return of collective training and the commencement of competitive games.

Bosses also remain committed to running all of the various competitions that were outlined in the original master fixture plan published last December.

"In the interim, I would like to thank our players and managers for their understanding of the current situation and for co-operating with us in ensuring that collective training does not take place. I also wish to remind counties that all pitches and gyms must remain closed for the time being," Ryan said.

"Finally, I want to reassure counties and clubs that despite this necessary delay in getting the inter-county season up and running, we remain committed to ensuring a healthy portion of the fixture calendar is allocated to our clubs so that they can return to training and competition as soon as Government restrictions permit.

"We are also conscious that outstanding club games from 2020 and the remaining games in the 2020 minor and U20 inter county competitions need to be factored into the equation in this context."

The GAA will issue a revised master fixture calendar to address all of the above once a date for the commencement of the 2021 inter-county season has been agreed.