Sarah O'Dwyer: Ciara Mageean hits her stride to set new standards for Irish athletics

Ciara’s time of 3:56:63 smashed Sonia O’Sullivan’s national record of 3:58:85 which had been the standard to beat in Ireland for the last 27 years
Sarah O'Dwyer: Ciara Mageean hits her stride to set new standards for Irish athletics

Ireland’s Ciara Mageean celebrates her silver-medal performance in the Women’s 1,500m final of the 2022 European Championships at the Olympiastadion, Munich last month. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

ATHLETICS in Ireland is on the rise. National records are falling left, right, and centre in recent times.

Last week, another Irish athletics record was broken, this time by a woman who has given her all to her discipline, the 1,500m.

While I’m sure many a Rebel would be disappointed to hear that a record held by one of their own – Sonia O’Sullivan – was smashed, Sonia herself was among the first to congratulate the awe-inspiring Ciara Mageean.

Posting on Twitter, Sonia O’Sullivan congratulated the Portaferry athlete on winning the 1,500m at the Brussels Diamond League meet, having broken the Irish record which was “nearly as old as Ciara is young”.

Sonia herself was in the stand watching on, and she credited Ciara with having a brilliant season.

After the race, Ciara said she was “on cloud nine” with her performance in an interview with World Athletics, and said breaking the Irish record is something she has “always dreamed of”.

Following the win, I have never seen so many athletes from across a number of different countries and racing disciplines post about how happy and excited they were for anyone. 

That’s testament to the hard work and dedication that went into the win.

Ciara’s time of 3:56:63 smashed Sonia O’Sullivan’s national record of 3:58:85 which had been the standard to beat in Ireland for the last 27 years.

Not only did she smash a national record, she beat Britain’s Laura Muir. She is the 2020 Tokyo Olympic silver medalist in the 1,500 metres and she won the bronze medal at the 2022 World Championships.

ON THE LINE

Mageean is a runner who has put everything on the line to perform well. She’s well-known as an athlete who needs a ‘sick-bag’ at the finish line of a race because she literally puts her body on the line and takes as much out of herself as she can to do well in every race.

In the past year, the stars seem to have aligned for Mageean. She is in the shape of her life, something she acknowledges herself.

While it feels like Ciara Mageean has been around for a long time, she is just hitting her stride and there’s more to come. This week she produced another phenomenal performance in the Diamond League final in Zurich.

While not being able to beat the current world and Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon who ran 4:00.44, while Mageean clocked 4:01.68, in what was a tactical race, to come in second.

That second-place finish saw her cap of “the week of her dreams”.

Olympian Rob Heffernan tweeted after the race: “It’s great to have a genuine Olympic medal hopeful to cheer on again. Well done. We are all behind you keep inspiring Irish athletes to believe we can be the best.”

Fellow Olympian Derval O’Rourke also tweeted her congratulations: “What a season it has been,” she said.

Prior to this incredible feat, more Irish national records fell at the European Athletics Championships.

Ireland’s Israel Olatunde crosses the line in the Men’s 100m final. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher
Ireland’s Israel Olatunde crosses the line in the Men’s 100m final. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher

Israel Olatunde, at just 20 years of age, has become the fastest Irish man ever. He made the final of the 100m sprint at the championships – a huge achievement in itself.

He went on to place sixth, and broke the national record in the process. He ran 10.17. The record, held by Paul Hession, had stood for 15 years.

At just 19 years old, Rhasidat Adeleke broke the Irish record in the 400m, placing fifth at the same meet. She ran a 50.53 over the distance, just oozing natural ability.

Following the race, despite it being a relatively new distance for Adeleke, she was almost disappointed she hadn’t medaled. She had tied up in the last 50m, but she had run flat out in lane one.

Over the years Ireland has had some athletes who have done really well. Most of those, however, were the exception to the norm at the time they were medaling in major championships. But now there are a cohort of young, up-and-coming athletes who are running phenomenally well, and there are a group of athletes who have been around for quite some time – Ciara Mageean included, and Mark English is another name who would be in the mix – in the form of their lives.

It’s an exciting time for Irish Athletics and only a matter of time before the three standard setters of Mageean, Adekele and Olatunde smash their own records again.

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