Pupils in Portaferry to cheer on Ciara Mageean in world 1500m final
Children and teachers at a primary school in Portaferry will among those huddled around their TVs today to cheer on past pupil Ciara Mageean as she becomes just the second Irish woman ever to appear in a world 1500m final. Simon Doyle reports
ON a visit to her old primary school this summer, Ciara Mageean brought her medal collection to show children and tell the stories behind them.
The haul included bronze medals from both the European Championships in Amsterdam in 2016 and European Indoor Championships in Glasgow this year.
But there was another simpler and smaller prize which she described as being "as special" - a cross country medal won while representing St Mary's in Portaferry.
Ciara has told previously of where she first felt the thrill of racing - sports day at her primary school.
She is proud of her association with the school and it is proud of her, welcoming her back regularly to chat to pupils and staff.
And today they will be cheering her on with people across Ireland as she races in the 1500m final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha.
Ciara is just the second Irish athlete in history, after Sonia O'Sullivan, to qualify for the world final at that distance.
Her performances in Qatar, as well as a memorable post-race interview with RTÉ Sport on Thursday, have won her many new fans.
The 27-year-old former camog, who still dreams of being nominated for an 'All Star' GAA medal, could not hide her delight in the interview shared widely on social media.
The Irish indoor 1500m record holder played for her local camogie club when younger and her father is the famed former Down hurler Chris 'The Hunter' Mageean.
A group wearing Down jerseys have been prominent in the crowd in Doha supporting her and Down GAA and Portaferry GAC have been among those to congratulate her on Twitter.
Great run @ciaramageean! An Irish vest in a World final so I suppose we may get the @OfficialDownGAA jerseys washed and ready again for Saturday! @BallelaGAC @bailecrann @QatarGAA pic.twitter.com/FvMiWZLdab— Dónal Mc Cann (@donalmcc87) October 3, 2019
In previous interviews, Ciara revealed that it was at her primary school sports day where she "first felt the thrill of racing and that competitiveness that drives me now was born".
Teacher Sean Denvir started working at the school when Ciara was in P6 and remembers her earliest races.
"After her European bronze, she visited and brought that and all her medals in this big plastic box," he said.
"She talked about all her international medals and then she showed the kids this little medal she said was an important to her as any international one. She won it when she was in our primary school after we entered a cross country event in Ards.
"Our school never went to things like that so that was a first. She had never run before but won a medal. She said it was her first medal for running and got her head thinking maybe she could run. The rest is history."
St Mary's principal Paul Gilchrist said Ciara's Doha performances had created a great buzz.
"There is a lot of talk about her and her interview after the semi-final. She comes across so well, so genuine," he said.
"When she visits here, she has the whole school captivated, the children hanging on her every word. She is so down to earth, that is her endearing feature."
In the summer, Ciara also helped launch a downhill mile race at Stormont to raise funds for the Children's Cancer Unit Charity.
Organiser Anna McDonald said she was "a joy to work with".
"She was so generous with her time and really helped to promote the work of the Children's Cancer Unit Charity," she said.
"We will al be watching the final on Saturday and wish her all the best. Ciara is already a winner to us. Go Ciara."
:: Tonight's final in Qatar is scheduled to take place at 6.55pm Irish time. Belfast runner Stephen Scullion will also compete in the marathon event later tonight.