High-performance athletes and teams can return to training from Monday, the government has announced.

As part of the phased easing of coronavirus travel restrictions, athletes and support staff, from 21 different sports, will be permitted to travel beyond 20km from their homes to attend scheduled training sessions at designated facilities.

The easing of the restrictions will mean the four Irish soccer teams involved in Europe, Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City can begin to train in larger groups with special hygiene and social-distancing protocols, in line with the government's Roadmap by the Expert Group on Return to Sport, in place.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that "groups of up to 15 people can meet for outdoor sporting activities" with sporting bodies expected to study the guidelines before advising their members what this means for group training.

The IRFU's four provincial rugby sides will not change their return date in light of today's announcement, with Munster and Leinster back on the field on 22 June and Ulster and Connacht returning a week later.

The four sides are due to play each other behind closed doors in Aviva Stadium on 22 and 23 August as part of a curtailed Guinness Pro14 season.

Sport Ireland International Carding Scheme athletes, many of whom would have been finalising Toyko 2020 preparation under normal circumstances, will now return to train at national training centres.

Under the current phase of Ireland's easing of the Covid-19 restrictions, some sports facilities have reopened, but athletes had been unable to access them because of the 5km travel restriction.

The Gaelic Athletic Association will release its return to play roadmap later this afternoon.

A statement from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport read: "Sport Ireland will compile a list of athletes that will be permitted to return to training, as well as coaching and support personnel. 

"Sport Ireland and the relevant sporting bodies have developed detailed protocols for social distancing and hygiene drawing on international experience, where many countries have already resumed high performance training.

"Implementation of these protocols will be monitored at the training centres and strict compliance will be ensured at all times."

Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy welcomed the announcement.

"Since Covid-19 restrictions were put in place in March, the operations of our high performance programmes have been significantly affected," he said.

"The athletes have shown great dedication in continuing to train on an individual basis in their remote environments.

"However, sports that are facility dependent or team based cannot easily replicate the benefits of training at their home environment.

"Sport Ireland has worked closely with our funded bodies to understand their requirements in order to return to training in a safe and controlled manner and has advocated on their behalf to ensure a prompt return with appropriate protocols in place."

The Olympic Federation of Ireland also welcomed the move. Chef de Mission for Team Ireland in Tokyo, Tricia Heberle said: "We are delighted to see athletes and sports return to their training centres and know that this will bring relief to the many athletes who can get back to their job of preparing for the Olympic Games next year.

"I would like to thank Sport Ireland, the Sport Ireland Institute and all the National Governing Bodies for the work that they have put into getting us to this point."

Greyhound racing can also resume behind closed doors.

Horse Sport Ireland and Showjumping Ireland plan to resume the Premier Series and Studbook Series starting from the week beginning 29 June.