Ciara Mageean's family 'over the moon' with first gold

Ciara Mageean
The 32-year-old from Portaferry clinched her first major title [Reuters]

Portaferry's Ciara Mageean clinched her first major title at the age of 32 as she won 1500m gold for Ireland at the European Championships in Rome.

Mageean, who won bronze and silver medals at previous European Championships, held her nerve in a tactical battle to find a small gap between Great Britain duo Georgia Bell and Jemma Reekie with 90 metres left.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme, Ciara's mother, Catherine, said she was "over the moon" with the win.

"We usually go to the European events, we are all heading to Paris for a longer time, but we opted out of this one. A part of me regrets that now," she said.

"We were rather nervous at home, pacing up and down the room, my husband, he was doing gymnastics, jumping up and down then he runs outside, 'yes, yes, yes', down the street."

The County Down woman's triumph continued Irish success at the championships after Friday's 4x400m mixed relay victory, which was the country's first European gold since 1998.

Mageean, who narrowly missed out on a 1500m medal when finishing fourth at last year's World Championships, crossed the line in four minutes 4.66 seconds - 0.67 seconds clear of Great Britain's Bell.

Mageean is congratulated by her supporters in Rome after her victory
Mageean is congratulated by her supporters in Rome after her victory [BBC]

"Words can't even come close," Mageean told RTE Sport after being asked what victory meant to her.

"Everybody back home knows how long I have been doing this, how hard I have been trying. I've had so many times when I've come off races and not felt the way I am today."

Catherine said: "When you watch it back you can actually see when the gap opens, she breathes out and take a great big breath in and just goes for it. I just knew, there was a smile on her face, it was like the 100-yard dash right down the middle."

'She wasn't fazed'

Mageean added: "When I was getting a bit boxed in there, I thought 'my god... I have all the legs left but nowhere to go'. I didn't grow up playing camogie to get boxed in though."

Noting Ciara's experience, Catherine explained that there is now a "quiet confidence" when she competes in championship competitions.

"In the past she would be quite nervous at major events but from two years ago, from the 2022 European Championship and the Commonwealth Games, that year seemed to cement an inner confidence that 'yeah I can do this, I can be here'.

"That shone through last night, she wasn’t fazed."

Mageean "kept calm and was prepared" and "she still had plenty of energy left in her legs" at the end of the race.

She is making an immediate return to training, in Saint Moritz, following the medal ceremony.

A Portaferry girl

Although from Portaferry, Mageean went to Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch.

Helen McCambridge, head of PE at the school, said she noticed Mageean was "very special" when she competed in the district cross country competition in Year 10.

"That day she was absolutely fantastic. That would have been on pure natural ability – it wasn’t my doing, it wasn’t that I had trained her."

Ms McCambridge said the school community is "delighted" after Mageean's success.

"There is certainly a buzz in the school as well because of her achievements.

“She didn’t start out as an athlete – she was a camogie player and we didn’t know where that would go, but she’s coachable.

"She has had this great success that everybody can see and that will inspire lots and lots of, not only runners, but people in other sports."

Helen McCambridge
Helen McCambridge taught Mageean PE [BBC]

Mageean's former form teacher, Greg Toner, said his wife was "berating" him during Mageean's final because he was "shouting so loud in the kitchen".

"I couldn’t hide my delight and joy and we are all so proud of her here in Assumption," he said. "I roared my head off.”

Mr Toner said Mageean was "vivacious, kind and bubbly" as a pupil.

"She always had a smile on her face. Some students needed a bit of encouragement to get into the day, but never Ciara. She loved life.

"She was the most wonderful young person in the classroom and was a great inspiration to everyone else because she loved all the opportunities life was giving her and she gave it back to us in spades."

Greg Toner
Mageean's former teacher Greg Toner [BBC]

Mr Toner said Mageean “is exactly how she appears in interviews".

"She treated her teachers with great respect and you see the fun in her in her interviews," he said.

"She is never stuck for words. Her interviews don’t surprise me because I saw the best of it as her form teacher every morning."

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