Ciara Mageean primed for the final showdown in Doha

Portaferry runner will take on the world’s best in 1,500m final on Saturday night

They’ve been heard and coming with increasing clamour each night, and now it’s the turn of Ciara Mageean to taste some final heat at the World Athletics Championships in Doha.

Mageean goes in the women’s 1,500 metres final at 6.55pm (Irish time) in Saturday’s penultimate session – 22 years after Sonia O’Sullivan was that last Irish woman to make this final in Athens, back in 1997, finishing eighth, four years after winning silver.

It also comes after the greatest night in Qatar athletics history, when Mutaz Essa Barshim won the host nation their first gold medal, defending his high jump title despite a season ravaged by injury – and some crazy pressure inside the Khalifa International Stadium.

With a last round clearance of 2.37m, on his first attempt, Barshim also provided one of the lasting moments of the championships, at least in Qatar. It came not long after Dalilah Muhammad also broke her own world record to win the 400m hurdles ahead of US team mate Sydney McLaughlin, her 52.16 improving the 52.20 set earlier this summer.


Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto also defended his 3,000m steeplechase record by an impossibly close .01 of a second, somehow denying Ethiopian teenager Lamecha Girma on the line, before Steven Gardiner produced a beautifully timed effort to win the 400m for the Bahamas, two years after winning his first, his 43.48 the sixth fastest in history. Some night, for one night.

So to Mageean – who goes into her 1,500m final fired up on hope, on confidence: championship distance races are often decided on tactics, and Mageean delivered a masterclass when booking her place in the 12-woman final, 10 of whom have run under the magical four minute barrier.

Mageean came to Doha after improving her lifetime best to 4:01.21, clocked in Monaco back in July, and after a similar masterclass in her heat on Wednesday, is primed for another run of her life: how close that will get her to a medal only short time will tell.

“Look, I have respect for all these women,” she said “The women’s 1,500m is red hot right now, anyone who follows athletics knows that. But they have to respect me too. And whatever that final throws at me I’m going to battle to the line, every bloody position, I’m going to give it everything.”

Mageean certainly bossed her semi-final, before Sifan Hassan swept past to take the win in 4:14.69, the Dutch woman looking impossibly easy as she chases a first ever 10,000m-1,500m double.

Mageean is in serious company, defending champion Faith Kipyegon from Kenya just ahead of her in the semi-final, and it’s shaping up to a proper blue ribbon event in Doha too: Britain’s Laura Muir also came through her second semi-final in third, that won by the American Jenny Simpson in 4:00.99, making her fifth successive final.

Hassan is clearly the athlete to beat, despite the absence of her coach Alberto Salazar, no longer allowed to associate with her after being given a four-year ban on Monday for anti-doping violations, but that 4:01.21 certainly puts Mageean in the mix, where tactics may well again decide everything.

Still speaking of firsts, Jakob Ingebrigtsen remains on track to becoming the first European-born athlete to win the men’s World Championship 1,500m since Britain’s Steve Cram took the inaugural title in 1983, booking his place in Sunday’s final (5.40pm).

Three days after falling over the line in fifth place in the 5,000m final, the youngest of the Norwegian brothers came through his semi-final in third, in 3:36.58, as cool as he ever is.

Older brother Filip, however, didn’t make it: he did break the East African dominance in the 1,500m, winning bronze in London two years ago, but only managed seventh in his semi-final. Jakob has improved his best time this summer to 3:30.16, and with the biggest kick and confidence of all the brothers looks well capable of winning gold in that event.

At 27, Mageean is also running into her prime and perhaps more than any Irish athlete since O’Sullivan, has had the full run of emotions too, typically played out live on TV. Last August, she bounced from disappointment to finish a close fourth at the European Championships in Berlin, before going one place better to win European Indoor bronze in Glasgow back in March. From Portaferry, at the tip of the Ards Peninsula, that rise has already continued in Doha.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics