With the 2021 inter-county season just days away from starting, the GAA are still awaiting clarification from the Government on whether non-playing panel members will be allowed attend games.

The Allianz Hurling league begins this Saturday with the football equivalent commencing a week later - with both competitions taking place behind closed doors.

When inter-county games restarted last October, just 26 squad members per county were permitted to attend.

This also incorporated 12 backroom officials and two county officials as the GAA capped matchday numbers at 40.

The figure drew much criticism from managers who wanted permission for full panels to attend.

The number was later extended at the end of November when Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers confirmed that non-playing panel members would be permitted to attend remaining games of the All-Ireland football and hurling championships.

But that announcement coincided with Ireland moving to Level 3 restrictions.

With the country operating under Level 5 restrictions since the start of this year, the most recent published public health advice published indicates that only necessary personnel can attend games at this time.

The GAA is looking for clarity on whether that has changed and expect that confirmation will be imminent.

Up to now the use of the term 'behind closed doors' games has been significant. It decrees that only people who have an essential role can be in attendance, meaning that players, including extended panel members who can’t play on the day, for whatever reason, cannot attend.

Last week saw some positivity with regard to the Government’s easing of restrictions, however, for the weeks ahead and if a green light is given for more than 26 players to attend games, the GAA could then seek to facilitate additional panel members and any additional backroom members that would be permitted.

The GAA’s Covid Advisory Group will make a final call on that once the Government provide direction.

In advance of the new season, the Covid Advisory Group has also recommended avoiding dressing-rooms and thereby lessening the prospect of 'close' contacts rather than 'casual' contacts being identified.

The use of gyms, dressing-rooms, meeting rooms, pre and post-match meals, collective travel and overnight accommodation have already been identified by the association as the most likely source for close contact determination.

Once more, team photographs, huddles, celebrations involving physical contact and handshaking are all discouraged.