Sensational Ciara Mageean wins gold at European Championships: ‘I’m looking forward to hearing Amhrán na bhFiann. It’s everything I run for’

June 11, 2024

She had won silver on this stage before, and bronze before that, but at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Sunday night, Ciara Mageean finally claimed the prize she had wanted for so many years: gold.

“To be able to win the gold, to be able to bring that home to Ireland and to see our flag at the top, is something truly special,” she said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hearing Amhrán na bhFiann. It’s everything I run for.”

With a classy, controlled and high-calibre display, the 32-year-old unleashed a gear no one else could live with down the home straight in the European 1500m final, powering away to win Ireland its second gold medal in just three days – this from a nation that had not won any since 1998.

Her victory capped a journey that had been two decades in the making, ever since she took up the sport as a child in Portaferry, juggling it with camogie throughout her teenage years. There had been plenty of heartbreak along the way, but now she was here, draped in that tricolour she loves, in the green vest she calls her “superpower”.

Ciara Mageean: champion of Europe.

She was, by some distance, the fittest and fastest on the night, but at this point in her career, Mageean knew an opportunity like this wasn’t going to come around often – and that fuelled something in her.

“It’s also about who wants it the most,” she said. “And I wanted it the most out there.”

She played a patient game to win her third European medal, her first major championship title, biding her time behind the leaders as the pace moved at a pedestrian pace to halfway. Britain’s Jemma Reekie had gone to the front from the start before hitting the brakes, content to let the pace dawdle as the field passed 400m bunched together in 67 seconds. Mageean sat quietly as the pace continued to lag through 800m, reached in 2:16.

Then slowly but surely the wheels began to turn, Reekie shifting through the gears with her teammate Georgia Bell on her shoulder. Mageean sat waiting, and waiting, then waiting some more, and on the final turn it looked like she was in trouble, trapped in a box on the inside. But she’s been around this game long enough to know a gap usually opens, and it did.

“I knew I had it in my legs,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m feeling good, I’m feeling good.’ It often opens up and I was telling myself not to panic. The gap was going to come and I made sure when it was 100 metres to go I saw a little bit of light that I was going to take it.”

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