GAA President John Horan says that the inability to form bubbles was the main reason why Gaelic games lost their elite sport exemption under the current Covid-19 restrictions.

While admitting that the agreed programme for tournaments might have to change, Horan said there was an "appetite" to see a return to action as soon as possible once the number of positive cases began to fall substantially.

The association yesterday confirmed that its games were no longer covered under the elite level bracket of the government's plan for dealing with suppression of the virus.

GAA President John Horan

It means that collective training cannot begin until the country exits its current Level 5 restrictions, with the strong likelihood that this will run into April at least.

Speaking earlier today to RTÉ Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers said that the GAA had not sought an extension of the exemption which had allowed them to play last year's All-Ireland championships between October and December.

He explained that the reason why the GAA was not considered to be on the same elite level as the SSE Airtricity League was because they were a professional league.

Horan said that the association's status was confirmed to them at meeting with the Minister on Monday, which was also attended by representatives of the LGFA and the Camogie Association.

"I asked the Minister the question directly, 'were we included in the present elite status'", Horan told RTÉ Sport.

"He said we weren't because the present elite status categorised was those sports that could operate within a bubble, and the GAA obviously wouldn't be able to function in such a manner.

"If you look across the three associations there would be 106 teams there at senior inter-county level - that would be a multiple of about 5,000 players.

"They all work within the community and we've all seen that throughout the winter.

"If you go back to our record last year we were always safe and responsible in the decisions we made in terms of return to play. Sometimes we moved at a slower pace than NPHET or the government were recommending.

"We have an appetite to go back and play the games but we feel, as both a management committee and the covid advisory committee, that it's not safe and it wouldn't be responsible to go back at the moment such is the level of the virus within society."

Earlier today the GAA's Director of Communication Alan Milton had told Morning Ireland that the association would be waiting for the publication of the government's revised 'Living with Covid' document later this month before making any decision on what 2021 held for inter-county games.

Milton also accepted that it was unlikely that there would be a return to action before Easter.

Horan pointed out that he would like to see the government give "consideration" to underage Gaelic games activities when compiling their new document, going on to say that it had been a "positive and safe" environment for children last year.

Looking at the the format of this year's All-Ireland football and hurling championships, Horan said the association was "flexible" around what way the season would end up taking place. 

"There possibly will have to be an alteration made to the programme that was laid out for the full year this year," he admitted.

"The time frame in which we have to operate the competitions will be reduced.

"I'm confident (they will happen) - we had that flexibility last year and we have that capability. We will devise meaningful programmes, both for our club and inter-county players, when we get the opportunity to come back."