Ulster GAA officials have advised teams in the north not to return to train before the permitted 12 April date.

The Ulster Council made a statement in the wake of the Northern Ireland Executive's sports training return announcement. 

The NI Executive this evening confirmed that sports training for affiliated clubs may resume outdoors in groups of up to 15 people from Monday 12 April, subject to Executive ratification the previous week. 

Ulster officials do not want any return to training before then. 

"GAA clubs in the north must stress to their players and management teams that 12 April is the earliest date that they may be permitted to resume activity," their statement read. 

"The GAA’s Covid Advisory Group will consider this development and will in the coming period issue updated guidance to all units of the Association.

"In the meantime, it is important that all our units continue to abide by both Government and GAA guidelines.

To this end it is worth re-stating that all GAA pitches and indoor facilities remain closed at present." 

Today's news of a return is a huge boost to those living in the jurisdiction. Restrictions were initially imposed on 26 December in a bid to curb a rise in cases of Covid-19 across the north.

Earlier this month the NI Executive published a 'Pathway out of Restrictions' document - albeit without dates.

It included five steps covering home and community, education, work, retail, sport and hospitality.

Today's signalling of slight easement of restrictions from 12 April will herald the return of outdoor sports for adults and children.

With restrictions in the Republic set to be considered again from 5 April - just a week earlier - there may not be any significant disparity in whether players in the six counties return to activity earlier than the south.

It had been put forward by many as inconceivable that if other sports were given the green light in the north that GAA clubs wouldn’t follow suit and bring young members back on pitches following a five-month absence.

Indeed, there had been fears that the north’s hugely successful vaccination programme would see clubs and children back way earlier than those in the Republic where the vaccine roll-out has been slow.

Growing fears around the wellness and wellbeing of young people affected by the ongoing lockdown saw increased calls for opening up club activity in the north at the first available juncture, although officials such as Tyrone chairman Michael Kerr insisted that the Association should continue to move on a 32-county basis.