Pregnancy and the birth of her daughter Amelia provided Cathriona McConnell with a fresh perspective on life and football.
The Donaghmoyne sharpshooter and former Monaghan star watched on from the sidelines last year when St Macartan’s provided an Ulster final shock.
Amelia was born nine months ago and while football remains vitally important to McConnell, she returned to the game on her terms.
She returned at the start of the summer, as Donaghmoyne set about righting the wrongs of 2017.
The five-time All-Ireland senior club champions – and winners two years ago – are back in the hunt for the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup again, and will tackle Foxrock-Cabinteely at the home of Bray Emmets tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon (1pm).
Juggling motherhood and football is a feat in itself but McConnell, who landed 0-9 in the Ulster final victory over Glenfin, smiles: “As I’ve said before, I’ve plenty of help.
“Everybody wants to babysit, it’s not so bad and she’s a good child.
“I haven’t gone back to work yet, I took a bit of extra time off.
“Darren’s here in the evenings and it’s training twice a week and on a Sunday.
“I have everything ready and Amelia’s fed and watered before I go out the door,” says McConnell, who’s also happy to confirm that her baby girls sleeps through the night.
She adds: “I took it handy going back. I had a bit of back trouble after I had her – it was four or five months before I had her, I only came back at the start of the summer.
“It’s tough to get back – I was off for the guts of a year or more.
“But when you have the likes of Annmarie Burns (five-time All-Ireland club winner and Monaghan’s 2018 manager) training you, you’re not long getting back up to speed!
“Amelia was only born and they were onto me to get back out!”
When McConnell was expecting, football naturally took a back seat and she admits that it was “tough” to watch Donaghmoyne relinquish their Ulster and All-Ireland crowns last year.
She says: “I didn’t play championship at all for the club last year.
“It was tough watching on but now that she (Amelia) has come along, football is great and it’s great to get out in the evenings but if you got injured or something, you still have to come home and get on with life. There’s another human to look after.
“If I wasn’t playing, I probably would miss it but there’s plenty to keep you busy.”
The 28-year-old remains as classy as ever in Donaghmoyne’s attack and she believes that coughing up those provincial and national crowns has helped the club to return with renewed vigour.
McConnell says: “We won the All-Ireland in 2015 and 2016 and while we did lose the Ulster final last year, I found the girls got a bit of a rest.
“It does bring back the hunger and drive and to go one step further. Winning back Ulster was the main objective and now we’ll take it one game at a time.
“It will be tough at the weekend but we’re hoping we’re good enough and everybody is fit and well.”
Donaghmoyne’s opponents – Dublin and Leinster champions Foxrock-Cabinteely – are familiar opponents.
The sides met in the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final and the 2016 final – with Donaghmoyne coming out on top twice.
McConnell nods: “They obviously have that hurt and they’re out to prove a point.
“Seeing Carnacon knocked out this year as well…we’ll have new All-Ireland champions and they’ll be hoping it’s them.
“They’re very strong, Dublin football is flying at the minute but we’re just as good I think.
“On the day, it’s anyone’s game.”