Nothing like bringing a newborn baby to Croke Park to take your mind off what you might be missing out on.

All-Ireland-winning Dub Sorcha Furlong admits that it felt strange to attend last weekend's Ladies final as a spectator rather than as a player.

She had been involved in the Dublin system for over a decade, and was a key cog in their defence when the county secured their maiden All-Ireland title in 2010.

But at the outset of this season, other priorities in her life came to the surface to displace her commitment to inter-county football. She felt it was the right time to start a family, and her daughter Caitríona was just two weeks old on the day of the All-Ireland final.

Bringing Caitríona on her 'first big day out' to watch Dublin defeat Mayo was a welcome distraction for Furlong, and kept her from having any mixed feelings about missing out on the chance to seek a second All-Ireland medal.

"It was a huge change," she told RTÉ Sport, "but to be honest having the distraction of Caitríona there with me probably helped because I was so concerned with what she needed for the day or how she would cope with the loud noises. It was good to have that bit of a distraction but it was very different.

"I met a few of the other girls that had been on the panel last year, and the year before, before the game. I met them over in the Croke Park hotel.

"We were all saying the same thing that it was weird being on the other side of the fence."

She continued: "Whenever the final whistle went and you saw them all out on the pitch there, you’d be thinking, ‘Jesus, you’d love to be still out playing.’

"Whenever the final whistle went and you saw them all out on the pitch there, you’d be thinking, ‘Jesus, you’d love to be still out playing.’"

"But obviously I had my decision made from last year and I’ve wanted to start a family for a couple of years and had put it off for a while so I have to be happy with where I’m at now with a lovely, healthy baby girl."

Despite her absence from the panel this year, Furlong maintained a interest in the county's progress, and attended all of Dublin's championship games except their All-Ireland semi-final victory over Kerry.

Her team-mates returned the favour by keeping her at the forefront of their minds throughout the campaign.

Leading into the final, Lyndsey Davey made a promise to find her in Croke Park after the final whistle, and the victorious Dublin players included baby Caitríona in the celebrations by placing her in the Brendan Martin Cup.

Along with captain Sinéad Aherne, a few of the St Brigid's contingent brought the trophy over to Furlong's house during the week, and made a special presentation during the visit.

"It was their first night off from the celebrations so that was the nice. They brought over a little jersey as well.

"Our female liaison officer (Kathleen Colreavy) has been with the team for years and she ordered a little number six jersey when she was getting the All-Ireland final jerseys.

"It was a nice touch."

"Our female liaison officer has been with the team for years and she ordered a little number six jersey when she was getting the All-Ireland final jerseys"

Furlong's decision to step away this year was not altogether surprising in retrospect.

Following a discussion with former manager Gregory McGonigle, she opted to sit out the 2016 National League campaign with a view to rejoining the camp later in the season.

Sorcha Furlong tackles Cora Staunton during the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Mayo

She also took a spin at coaching and was part of the management team that led the Dublin Ladies U21's to an All-Ireland title. She was invited to get involved with a development squad earlier this year, but declined the offer in order to concentrate on her pregnancy.

It's not unheard of for female athletes to make a comeback to sport after childbirth. Irish jockey Nina Carberry was back racing competitively last week, just four months after giving birth to her daughter Rosie.

But while Furlong is still hopeful that she can resume playing club football next year, she suspects that the inter-county game might just be beyond her.

She made an off-the-bench appearance in last year's All-Ireland final against Cork, and unfortunately, that may well be her last act in a Dublin jersey.

"Realistically, it’s different when you’re a mother to a baby. It’s hard to see yourself having the time to commit to it. You’d love to obviously get back to play in Croke Park again but you have to be realistic as well. I wanted to start a family at the right time for myself and my husband and we did so I want to put my energies into that as opposed to the inter-county set-up.

"The commitment levels that you’re at now, it’s hard to see how you could fit the two of them in and give both of them your full attention"

"The commitment levels that you’re at now, it’s hard to see how you could fit the two of them in and give both of them your full attention. I just don’t think it would be possible for me to do.

"At different stages of your life, you put your focus on different things. I was lucky enough to be involved in Dublin all through my twenties and had a very good career with them. I think when you get to a certain stage in anything - whether it’s in sport or work - your focus changes.

"When you have a child, your focus is going to be fully on them."

The 2017 All-Ireland triple header was a momentous day in the history of Ladies Football. It attracted a record attendance of 46,286, which marks an increase of almost 12,000 compared to the number of spectators at last year's event.

In addition to smashing its own record, the figure far exceeded the 35,271 fans who attended the Women's FA Cup final earlier this year.

Another milestone was reached in terms of television viewership, with an average of 303,800 people tuning in to watch the games on TG4. This was the station's highest figure since first starting to broadcast the ladies football finals in 2001.

According to Furlong, the significant rise in the attention afforded to ladies football is down to a 'combination of factors,' including the impact of Lidl's sponsorship, and the dedicated work of those in the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA).

Over 46,000 people attended the 2017 All-Ireland Ladies finals in Croke Park.

Finding new ways to continue the growth of Ladies Football is the next target to aim for, and Furlong would like to see some further development in a few aspects of the sport to help that along.

"The more you can get going to games the better and I suppose the critical analysis of it is only starting to come in a bit more now in Ladies Football."

Spreading the audience beyond All-Ireland finals day would form a key part of that progression, as well as further critical analysis of the games.

"The more you can get going to games the better and I suppose the critical analysis of it is only starting to come in a bit more now in Ladies Football."

"I know a couple of years ago it was just kind of a case of ‘oh yeah, didn’t they do great and they played well.’

"Now, they’re breaking down how teams are playing a bit more and what they do well and what they don’t do too well which wasn’t the case a couple of years ago. It’s definitely progressing and that was something that was brought up in the Women’s Rugby World Cup as well. They’re getting good analysts to come in and break it down.

"They’re getting people who have an interest in the women’s game and I think it helps when you have ex-players and people who know the women’s game. Analysts who know the players, how they and analysing the games.

"That definitely helps because when you have someone who doesn’t really know the game or know the team very well, they’re probably a bit more inclined to give more general comments as opposed to analysing it properly."