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Irish Olympic hopeful Ciara Mageean tells of invite to the Vatican

Portaferry athlete Ciara Mageean has spoke about her faith and receiving an invite to the Vatican. Picture by Jane Barlow/PA Wire

IRISH Olympic hopeful Ciara Mageean has told of how she was invited to attend a conference about her faith at the Vatican.

The European medallist (28), from Portaferry, spoke of her surprise after receiving a phone call from Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, to ask her to attend the event.

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"I got a lovely phone call from my bishop at home... I thought someone was taking the mick out of me and I actually said it to the bishop," she said.

Ms Mageean, who was due to compete in the Olympics in Tokyo before it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, spoke about the Vatican invite during an interview for RTÉ Radio One show, Des's Island Discs.

"He's (Bishop Treanor) a lovely gentleman, he had got an email from the Vatican and could he forward it to me, so yeah I was invited to the Vatican for a conference on sport and faith and how it brings us all together," she said.

"It's meant to be in May so under the circumstances it's not going ahead so I hope everybody is staying safe over there."

Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor

During the interview, she described growing up in a "very Catholic household" and how her faith grew during her grandmother's cancer battle.

"I was visiting her one day in the hospital and I could tell she was praying so I didn't go in behind the curtain, I said I'd wait and let her finish the rosary," she said.

"She asked could she have the strength to make it through her next scan, because it was that painful.

"That moment meant a lot to me because she didn't pray that it wouldn't hurt her, she just asked for strength. Whether she was praying to a greater God, or the clouds, or her chair, or whatever it may be, it gave her strength.

"Faith and family mean a lot to me.

"It's important you have something in your life that you look towards for that little bit of strength."

Ms Mageean also said her first love was camogie, before athletics took over.

"I grew up in Portaferry and there's not a lot to do in Portaferry a lot of the time, but I have a big GAA family and just grew up following my auntie down to the hurley park," she said.

"I absolutely loved playing and that was really my first love and then I started doing athletics in secondary school.

"I had to make the choice one day between camogie and athletics....what sold it for me was that I could run for Ireland and that I could represent my country."

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