Encouraging short run for Ciara Mageean at Morton Games

Olympic hopeful just misses out in 800m but believes it will help in 1,500m in Rio

Exactly two weeks before whoever it is gets to carry the Olympic flame into the Maracanã Stadium in Rio there was an exciting little dress rehearsal of sorts at the Morton Games in Santry, especially for Ciara Mageean.

Still buoyant from her bronze medal won over the 1,500m at the European Championships in Amsterdam a fortnight ago, Mageean dropped down a distance and went after the Irish record over 800m – and ended up coming brilliantly close.

It may not be her preferred distance, although it looked that way as Mageean hit the front just past halfway, pacemaker Sinead Denny perfectly setting up the record attempt with a 59.5 opening lap.

In command

Mageean then tore down the backstretch with only one thing on her mind, although with Britain’s


Alex Bell

hot on her heels.

Still Mageean looked in command coming around the final bend, the race now seemingly against the clock, only for Bell to slowly draw level, then get past her in the last 20 metres – taking the narrow win 2:00.53.

Bell’s time was actually inside the Irish record of 2:00.58, set by Rose-Anne Galligan in London back in 2013, although Mageean just missed out, her 2:00.79 still an almost two-second improvement on her previous best, set just last month in Belfast.

“Yeah, very disappointed, actually,” she said. “I suppose I had to do a lot of the work, from 350m out, and I prefer to be the person chasing down in the home straight, instead of being the person chased.

“And I’m disappointed not to give the Irish people an Irish winner. But this is my first fast 800m in a long time, with girls to race against, and hopefully I showed I have pace over the 800m as well, which will help me in the 1,500m. But hopefully I’ll be back to win this race in the future.”

Indeed an Irish win proved largely elusive on the night. With Thomas Barr withdrawing from the men’s 400m hurdles due a groin injury, victory there went to Britain’s Rhys Williams in 49.50, although there was some hope David Gillick might turn back the clock in the 400m flat.

Instead, victory there went to Sadam Koumi of Sudan in 45.76, Brian Gregan actually the best of the Irish in fourth, clocking 46.59, just ahead of Gillick’s 46.93.

The headline event, the Morton Mile, provided another plethora of sub-four minute clocking, with the American Johnny Gregorek, son of the famous US distance runner of the same name, leading home an amazing 11 men under the still magical barrier with this 3:55.57.

Among them was Ireland’s Paul Robinson who, although finishing back in 11th, was still rewarded with another sub-four to add to his list, clocking a season best of 3:58.75.

Word also emerged of an encouraging pre-Olympic run for Mark English at the London Anniversary Games, where he clocked a season best of 1:45.36 over 800m, in eighth place.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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