Northern Ireland news

Record-breaking athlete credits her GAA background and 'aunt Edel' for sporting success

Portaferry athlete Ciara Mageean celebrates winning bronze for Ireland at the Women's 1500m final during the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Glasgow last Sunday
Seanín Graham

A PORTAFERRY athlete and former camog has revealed that it was "learning to strike a sliotar" that led to her sporting success on the track.

Middle distance runner Ciara Mageen (26), who won a European Indoor bronze medal in Glasgow last Sunday, credits her GAA background and specifically her all-Ireland winning aunt as her inspiration.

Speaking to RTÉ as part of a series on influential sporting figures to mark International Woman's Day, Ms Mageen singled out a childhood memory as a defining moment that made her "want to succeed in sport".

"I remember that I was out in my granny and grandad's yard, learning how to hit the ball in the air," she said.

"I'd been watching my older sister Máire, and my daddy had tried to teach me as well. I just couldn't get the hang of hitting the ball, cack-handed, trying to throw it up on my left side and swing.

"My aunt Edel came home and I remember running in and asking her would she help me learn to hit the ball in the air.

"She came out and spent the whole day with me, until it was starting to get dark and Granny called us for the dinner. I kept practicing, practicing, practicing."

The aunt she referrred to was Edel Mason, the first camogie player in history to win All-Ireland Intermediate Championship medals with two different counties - her native Down in 1998, and her adopted Antrim five years later.

Ms Mageen, who is the Irish indoor 1,500 metres record holder, played for her local camogie club and said she still dreams of being nominated for an 'All-Star' GAA medal.

Her father is the famed former Down hurler Chris `The Hunter' Mageean.

The Portaferry woman's stellar junior career included becoming the only non-African athlete to win a medal in any of the middle and long distance races at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Moncton.

She also won 1500m bronze in the European outdoor championships in Amsterdam in 2016.

However, she suffered several serious injuries that hindered her career.

Following her comeback at the 1,500m final in Glasgow last Sunday, she said clinching the European bronze meant "an awful lot" after so many disappointments.

"I just wanted to walk off the track with my head held high," she said.

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