Ciara Mageean aware of what's to come in Berlin showdown
Portaferry woman has qualified for another 1,500m European final this Sunday evening
Ireland’s Ciara Mageean finishes second in 4:09.35 in the 1,500m heats at the European Athletics Championship in Berlin. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Ask some athletes about tactics and you get gibberish. Ask Ciara Mageean and you get a psychology lesson. It’s what happens when you’ve come so near and so far and more than often enough.
In talking through her European 1,500 metres final, set up with a perfectly run heat, Mageean clearly knows what she wants and what she needs: Sunday’s final showdown (7pm Irish time) will be proper test of all she’s been through, and Mageean feels and looks prepared for whatever it throws at her.
In qualifying she both felt and looked like the athlete who won bronze two years ago in Amsterdam: at 26 she’s actually one of the oldest in the field, Britain’s gold medal favourite Laura Muir still 25, Mageean’s experience still nothing unless she makes it count.
“The race now is the easy part,” said Mageean, who took second in her heat to Muir’s 4:09.12, right on her heels in 4:09.35. “You’ve done the work, and once you step on the track and the gun goes, that’s when you feel most comfortable. Dealing with the nerves and all the little voices in the head is the tough part, but I can take confidence from all the championships we’ve done before.
“And I think less so for the racing experience, because you practice that all the time, but more all the lead up too, knowing that I’ve been here and done that, and dealt with all these nerves before, and come out on top. And maybe give myself some credit for that, that I’ve done the work, and I’m ready for it.”
Muir, yet to win a major championship gold outdoors, has a best of 3:55.22 from 2016, and 3:58.18 from this season; team mate Laura Weightman, who won bronze four years ago, has run 4:01.76 this season, will also be in the mix, the young Sofia Ennaoui from Poland looking perfectly capable too, winning the other heat in 4:08.60; Mageean’s best is 4:01.46.
“With such a young team here, all the talk about all the newcomers on the senior panel, it makes me feel old, and also makes me realise how much experience I have at these championships, so time to draw on all of that in the final. I’ve done a lot of strength work too, and speed is easy once you’ve got the strength to utilise it, at the end. Coming strong is the main thing, especially in the last little kick.
“I know some people think I’ve had a rough few years. I had a bad season last year. Most people forget that athletes are not robots, and constantly improving every year is not easy. Everyone has a wobble, but I’m not taking that as dent in me as an athlete. Everybody tells me that class is permanent. So I’m going to go out there and show that class that I have.
“And growing up in Portaferry playing camogie, I’m tough, and put in a hell of a lot of training over the last few years, and that should stand to me” – all of which will be put to the ultimate test on Sunday evening.
Phil Healy also earned another run after progressing from her 200m heat into the semi-finals – then suddenly felt faraway, so close: finishing fourth in 23.23, she ended up 11th fastest overall, the top eight making the final. At 23, still learning the ropes of the shorter sprints, she was justifiably satisfied: “A European 200m semi-final, I feel there is more there,” said the Cork athlete, with the 4x100m relay still to come. “The 100m is more fun for me, working on more 400m stuff, but overall happy enough with that, yeah.”
Thomas Barr was back on the track as well, some 16 hours after his bronze medal heroics in the 400m hurdles, assisting the Irish 4x400m relay team in their quest for another final: Barr anchored the quartet, with Chris O’Donnell, Brandon Array and Leon Reid, and together they finished fifth in a season best of 3:06.55 – not enough to qualify, however. They also ended up 11th overall, the top eight progressing (Reid clocking an excellent 46.1 on his leg).
No such joy whatsoever Kerry O’Flaherty or Michelle Finn in their heat of the 3,000m steeplechase, both finishing at the back of the field, and both outside 10 minutes – O’Flaherty clocking 10:09.81, and Finn 10:10.93.
The young Irish women’s 4x400 quartet of Sinead Denny, Davacia Patterson (only 17), Sophie Becker and Claire Mooney finishing their heat in eighth, their 3:35.96 also a season best.
Irish in action over the weekend
Cian McManamon, Alex Wright; 20k Race Walk Final (9.55am).
Breege Connolly, Gladys Ganiel, Lizzie Lee; Women’s marathon (8.05am).
Kevin Seaward, Mick Clohisey Paul Pollock, Sean Hehir, Sergiu Ciobanu; Men’s Marathon (9am)
Women’s 4 x 100m Relay heats (6.20pm)
Ciara Mageean; 1500m Final (7pm)