‘I didn’t play camogie growing up to get boxed in’

Ciara Mageean claims gold in women’s 1500m European Championships final

2024 European Athletics Championships, Stadio Olympico, Rome 9/6/2024
Women’s 1500m Final
Ireland’s Ciara Mageean celebrates winning
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
2024 European Athletics Championships, Stadio Olympico, Rome 9/6/2024 Women’s 1500m Final Ireland’s Ciara Mageean celebrates winning Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy (©INPHO/Morgan Treacy ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy/©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

AFTER so many silver and bronze medals at all levels, Ciara Mageean finally struck gold on Sunday night at the European Athletics Championships in Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

It was the second gold medal for Ireland in the championships and we are only on day three.

Mageean ran the perfect tactical race in a slow-run contest as Britons Jemma Reekie and Georgie Bell tried to dominate from the front, but the Portaferry woman broke loose with 90 metres to run and crossed the line well clear in a slow 4:04.66.

Sarah Healy was seventh in 4:06.77.

With three British runners on the starting blocks, there had been anticipation Mageean could be targeted. But she wasn’t to be denied in what was a truly stellar display of pace and defiance. As she said herself speaking to RTÉ post-race: “I didn’t grow up playing camogie to get boxed in”.

She continued: “Words can’t even come close. Everybody back home knows how long I have been doing this, how hard I have been trying. I’ve had so many times when I’ve come off races and not felt the way I am today.

“I went out on that track today super nervous, but I had a plan and a mission, that was to hear Amhrán na bhFiann.

“When I was getting a bit boxed in, I thought ‘Oh my God’. I have all the legs left but nowhere to go.’'

The 32-year-old Mageean had cantered through her semi-final on Friday in a time of 4:06.88, but in spite of her pre-race position as one of the favourites, she described the possibility of a medal as “an absolute dream”.

She will be awarded her medal tomorrow with a rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann, as that dream comes true.

Healy was unfortunate in how the race unfolded, with Sonia O’Sullivan stating pre-race that a “tight and tactical” race was to be anticipated, one which isn’t best suited to the Dubliner.

Earlier, Rhasidat Adeleke continued her quest for a second gold medal at the championships with a smooth victory in her semi-final of the 400m.

The Dubliner had contributed a key second leg in Ireland’s winning mixed medley relay team but showed no residual fatigue from that effort on Friday night.

Looking majestic in lane eight, the Tallaght athlete quickly overtook the French competitor outside her before cruising down the back straight in the lead.

Britain’s Laviai Nielsen offered token resistance as they entered the final 100m but the tall Irish woman merely stretched out her long legs to break the tape comfortably clear in 50.54 seconds.

“It was good to be back in the stadium and be in the mix,” said Adeleke.

“I do feel good. I’m mentally in a good place.”

Sharlene Mawdsley ensured there would be two Irish woman in Monday night’s final with a competent and confident performance in the second semi.

Also drawn in lane eight, the Tipperary athlete came off the final bend disputing second place with Victoria Ohurugu only for the Briton to fade on the run-in.

Lieke Klave from the Netherlands took the victory in 50.57, with Mawdsley sealing a final spot in second with a 50.99 second clocking.

Sophie Becker produced her second best time ever in the second semi-final but unfortunately a fourth place in 51.54 seconds was not sufficient to reach Monday night’s final.

A similar fate met a third member of the golden relay team in the men’s 400m as Chris O’Donnell who came through the preliminaries on Saturday morning but failed to advance from the semi-finals despite running the race of his life. The Sligo athlete finished fourth in 45.72 seconds with only the first two going through.

Earlier, it was another busy morning for the Irish team on Sunday with the appearance of Thomas Barr being the highlight.

Another of the heroes of Ireland’s gold medal mixed relay team was back to work at his own specialist event, the 400m hurdles.

A proven performer on the big occasion, Barr copper-fastened that reputation with an impressive win in the first heat of the preliminary round.

Only fourth going into the last hurdle, the 31-year-old Waterford man produced his trademark fast finish to cross the line in a season’s best of 49.31 seconds.

He will next line up alongside Olympic and three-time World champion Karsten Warholm of Norway in the first semi-final of the event to be held late Monday morning.

Kelly McGrory got a late call-up for the women’s 400m hurdles after a mix-up by one of the nations opened up a late space in the event. The Donegal athlete was not expected to progress beyond the opening round and so it proved, but she will be more than happy to have recorded a personal best clocking of 57.10 seconds in seventh place.

Nicola Tuthill exceeded all expectations, making it through to the hammer final after finishing runner-up in the second qualification pool.

The 20-year-old from Bandon threw a national U23 record of 69.85m in the third round to take a significant step forward in her career and will be ranked seventh of the 12 finallists in Tuesday night’s medal decider.

Mark Smyth also made his way through the preliminary round of the 200m, finishing fourth in his heat with a season’s best of 20.93 seconds. The Raheny Shamrock will now join the heavy hitters, who were given a bye through the preliminaries, in the semi-finals on Sunday night.

Both half marathon races had started the Sunday morning programme with all three Irish representatives well down the field. Hiko Tonosa was 43rd in the men’s race in 65:42 as Yermaneberhan Crippa added another gold to Italy’s burgeoning medal count in a championship record time of 61:03.

European cross country champion Karoline Grovdal from Norway was the winner of the women’s race in 68:09. Shona Heaslip was the first of the two Irish taking 34th place in a season’s best 72:19. England-based Emily Haggard-Kearney, who runs locally in the colours of North Belfast Harriers and is the current NI & Ulster Senior Cross Country champion, was further down the field in 64th also recording a seasonal best of 77:04.

Earlier Saturday night provided an incredible feast of athletics finals. “This is what it is all about - a great stadium and a great crowd,” said Jakob Ingebrigtsen after winning the 5000m.

On a magical night in the Stadio Olimpico, Croatia’s Sandra Elkasevic won a record seventh women’s discus gold and there were four championship records from Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou (men’s long jump), France’s Cyrena Samba-Mayela (100m hurdles), Leonardo Fabbri (men’s shot) and Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam (women’s heptathlon).

And the host nation had plenty to celebrate with three more Italian victories for Fabbri, Marcell Jacobs (men’s 100m) and Lorenzo Ndele Simonelli (110m hurdles). That followed Antonella Palmisano (women’s 20k walk) and Nadia Battocletti (women’s 5000m) winning gold on day one.

Sarah Lavin missed out on a medal the women’s 100m hurdles final. The Limerick athlete had won her semi-final heat in a season’s best 12.73 but was unable to raise her game for the final as she finished in 12.94. Even a repeat of her semi time would not have gained her a podium place as France’s Cyrena Samba-Mayela won gold in a championship record time of 12.31.