Ahead of today's expected roadmap update from the Northern Ireland executive, former Fermanagh player and manager Dom Corrigan says the value of physical exercise cannot be underestimated for much longer.

Corrigan has been synonymous with Gaelic football at St Michael’s, Enniskillen, where he has taught for over 30 years.

Having spent his professional life in education, Corrigan has been the key figure in the colleges' football successes over the past three decades, including their first Hogan Cup win of 2019 and five previous MacRory Cup victories.

Last week, the Republic's Department of Education clarified that external coaches like Games Promotion Officers could not come into schools and hold training sessions under Level Five restrictions – even though children were allowed back into classrooms again.

Corrigan says politicians are underestimating the huge importance of physical exercise.

"I think the Government is confused," he says in relation to that development.

"Sport is for the masses. There is a perception out there that unless you are playing for a county team that it doesn’t count what you do. That’s absolutely and clearly not the case.

"Inter-county is only for the elite. For everyone else physical exercise holds three strands – it helps your physical being, your mental health and it’s a massive social outlet. It’s where people make friends.

"There is no valid argument to take it away.

"I would feel the group that is the greatest hit in all of this pandemic is the 15-25-year-old age group. There is so much happening there at that period in their lives – they may be in the final year of a colleges’ camogie or football team, the final year at underage, minor or under-20 and they will never get that time back again.

"At least with senior intercounty players, they know that their season will come along again. I have more sympathy for that age group than anyone else.  They have been denied a lot and they have made a lot of sacrifices.

"The sooner this is all cleared up, north and south, the better because between the social and sporting outlets they have missed out hell of a lot."

Corrigan and his colleagues have been working remotely for the past three months but from next Monday onwards life in the classroom will resume again as students start to return to school with 300 coming on site in the first phase and the full student population expected back after Easter.

And he is thankful that the Northern Ireland Executive will encourage all students to resume PE straight away.

"We will be encouraged to get them outside and get them active and into a sporting environment as soon as possible," he says.

"Obviously, they will not be allowed any competitive action and that’s fine, we couldn’t have schools crossing to play each other but, as I say, for the physical, social and mental side of things it will be huge to have them exercising together again, chatting to their friends as they do so.

"Schools are about more than academic results. Sport plays a huge role in their lives and the same with drama or whatever pursuit they choose."

"Let people exercise. It's tough for young people and they need this outlet."

Stormont officials are expected to give more information on when community sport could return in the six counties.

As is the potential situation with the south, it could yet be closer to early April when teams in the north can resume outdoor training.

Corrigan can foresee no issue with the North being cleared to resume outdoor activity ahead of their southern colleagues.

"That’s not an issue in my book," he says.

"If the vaccines are rolled out and the case numbers are down and it’s safe in the North to train, I would see no problem with that.

"There will be no inter-county games until it is safe to do so nationwide but if, for example, the situation is improved up here to a level where we can go back, well then there is no reason why teams cannot go back and have physical exercise in small pods and in a safe and controlled fashion. Again, we are not talking about any competitiveness or competitive edge here, just the benefits of exercise.

"Again, I don’t think the Government is aware enough of those critical values.

"Let people exercise. It’s tough for young people and they need this outlet."