It remains the responsibility of governing bodies in Ireland to make their own risk assessment on when to return to sporting activity, but the Return to Sport Expert Group's main task will be to appraise "the consistency of protocols prepared by the national governing bodies against public health advice", according to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.

The group, which held its first meeting on Thursday, agreed to work on a phase by phase basis, with the public health situation and advice continuing to evolve.

While the priority is to support national governing bodies and local sports partnerships, the Expert Group will support other sports organisations and will seek external advice and additional expertise as required. 

The Expert Group, which will hold its second meeting next Wednesday afternoon, emphasised the need for a cautious approach during the early phases in line with the Government Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. 

Physical distancing protocols will need to be maintained and the 5km travel restriction for exercise will also have to be obeyed. 

The Expert Group also cautioned that team sports would not return during Phase 1, and that while groups of four people are permitted to exercise in an outdoor setting, 'pods of four' in larger groups which seek to replicate team environments would be contrary to the general advice. 

The Expert Group also recommended that surfing, under conditions set out by the Surfing Association, can be added to the list of activities permitted under Phase 1.

Horse racing, viewed as crucial to the rural economy, will return behind closed doors on 8 June with a raft of strict protocols in place. 

But the picture looks gloomier for major team sports, with GAA, soccer and rugby facing a longer wait to commence playing activity. 

Reacting to the first meeting of the Expert Group, Minister Ross said: "The Government's Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business provides an important pathway for the gradual and safe return of sport in Ireland. 

"Yesterday’s meeting of the Expert Group represented a really good start in its work programme and this will intensify in the coming weeks. There is, however, no question of rushing the return to sport. A cautious approach is essential and all aspects of the public health advice must continue to be respected."