Mageean is on track for even more Euro glory
Ciara Mageean made light work of her 1,500m heat in the European Championships in Berlin yesterday.
The 26-year-old bronze medallist from the last Europeans in Amsterdam always appeared to be running well within herself in a slow tactical race which only came to life in the last lap, which the leaders covered in under 61 seconds.
This group included Mageean — from Portaferry — and favourite Laura Muir, the European Indoor champion and currently the fastest in Europe.
These two, plus Portugal’s Marta Pen, broke away in the last 150m, with Muir and Mageean eyeing each other as they crossed the line as the leading qualifiers.
Muir was timed at 4mins 9.12secs, followed by Mageean (4.09.35) and Pen (4.09.40). They will all be in the 12-strong field for tomorrow’s final.
After bronze in 2016, Mageean has struggled to maintain consistency.
However, this season there have been encouraging signs that she is approaching top form.
“My instructions were to qualify here rather than depend on a fastest loser spot, and I have done that,” she said. “I felt good although things were a bit choppy on the inside lane because of the slow pace. This gives me a lot of confidence for the final.
“I expect a hard race in the final led by Laura Muir, who is one of the greatest. The lead-up to here has been good and I have been able to deal with nerves.
“I have done a lot of speed work and am pleased the last lap was fast at under 61 seconds.
“I had a bad 2017 but athletes aren’t robots.
“I feel old in this young Irish team but Thomas Barr’s bronze was a great example to us all,” she added.
In the women’s 200m, Bandon’s Phil Healy was impressive as fifth fastest semi-final qualifier in 23.34secs.
She then made a valiant effort to qualify for the final against a top-class field.
Double world champion Daphne Schippers took the honours in 22.69secs ahead of Great Britain champion Beth Dobbin (22.84).
Irish record holder Healy was run out in fourth in 23.23secs which is still one of her fastest times.
In the women’s steeplechase, Newcastle’s Kerry O’Flaherty ran 10.09.81, while Leevale’s Michelle Finn was timed at 10.10.93.
The two Irish 400m relay teams were eliminated in the first round despite recording season’s best times.
The men’s team — which included Northern Ireland’s Leon Reid, newly eligible for Ireland — recorded 3.06.55 for 11th fastest overall.
Beechmount’s 18-year-old Davicia Patterson was in the Ireland women’s squad who ran a solid 3.35.96.
In addition to the women’s 1,500m final tomorrow, other key highlights are the marathons which involve five Northern Ireland athletes.
Of major interest will be Kevin Seaward’s performance following his outstanding fourth place in April’s Commonwealth Games marathon in Australia.
The 32-year-old St Malachy’s man was less than 20 seconds away from a bronze medal and he will be keen to do well in Berlin.
While teacher Seaward has not competed since his Gold Coast feat, he is very consistent and renowned for doing well on the big occasion.
Annadale’s Paul Pollock will also be hoping to perform well after his nightmarish experience on the Gold Coast when a leg injury forced him to withdraw a day before the race.
Pollock was top Irish finisher at the Rio Olympics in 32nd place and will be aiming for a good placing tomorrow, and perhaps get close to his 2hrs 15mins marathon time from 18 months ago.
Meanwhile, 40-year-old Breege Connolly of City of Derry races sparingly but has a personal best of 2hrs 37mins 29secs.
She competed in Rio and showed good form this year by winning the Edinburgh Half in a personal best of just over 76mins.
And 41-year-old mother Gladys Ganiel (North Belfast) is another athlete who has been the model of consistency over the years.
Her Berlin Marathon best time from last autumn of under 2hrs 38mins proves that in the 26 mile event, age is no barrier to success.
Meanwhile, multi Belfast Marathon winner Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) has withdrawn due to an Achilles injury.