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'This is really good for a country of our size' - Irish athletes continue the Friday feeling in Berlin

By Will Downing, Berlin

Following Thomas Barr’s bronze medal in the 400m hurdles last night, Phil Healy and Ciara Mageean have maintained the Friday feeling for Irish athletics at the European Championships in Berlin, with Mageean booking a place in Sunday’s 1500m final.

26-year-old Mageean showed good composure in taking second place in her 1500m semi-final barely quarter of an hour after Healy’s success.

Lying sixth at the bell in a tactical race, Mageean started moving strongly up the field on the outside on the back straight, to comfortably qualify for the final.

The Poprtaferry athlete, now based in Loughborough, claimed bronze in this event in Amsterdam two years ago, though the Rio Olympics and London World Championships were not as kind.

Britain’s Laura Muir won in 4:09.12, with Mageean smooth in second, recording 4:09.35.

“I’m feeling very good out there, happy with that performance. Time to get back, get recovered and be ready for the final,” Mageean beamed.

“As much as you could execute something perfectly on an athletics track, whenever there’s a couple of other girls there, the plan was to go out there and get a big Q, and it’s done.”

Off the back of breaking the long-standing Irish 200m record at last month’s Cork City Sports, 100m semi-finalist Healy started the ball rolling this morning with a solid 23.34 seconds, finishing third in her 200m heat to automatically qualify for the next round.

Belarussian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya won in 23.07.

The Waterford-based Bandon AC athlete will now compete in tonight’s semi-finals, but Healy may well need to break that Irish record of 22.99 seconds to progress.

She has been given an encouraging draw in lane six, and will have defending champion Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands two lanes inside her.

“I’m happy,” Healy said after her heat, adding: “It’s automatic qualification after all and that was the job to do.

“Looking forward to coming out and represent in the (green) vest later.”

It has been constantly in the 30s temperature-wise this week, but today Berlin saw temperatures plummet to 19 Celsius.

Not that it affected Healy though: “It’s a massive difference to what it’s been like since we came out on Monday and Tuesday.

“If you saw me out in the warm-up, I was layered up to the last.

“It’s good, it’s still warmer than what we have at home. Obviously we like the warm weather now it’s cooler.

“We’ll take the conditions as everyone is running in the same conditions.”

The morning after the night before wasn’t able to carry Thomas Barr and the Irish men’s 4x400m relay team to the final.

Chris O’Donnell and Brandon Arrey moved between fourth and fifth in the opening two legs, with the top three to qualify.

200m finalist Leon Reid had too much work to get Ireland higher in the standings, and there was drama with the final changeover as Barr had to hurdle the fallen Italian athlete Davide Re in order to keep afloat.

But the new European bronze-medallist was unable to draw in the top four as Belgium (winners in 3:02.55), Italy and Spain took the automatic qualifying positions.

The Netherlands in fourth, like Ireland, bowed out due to Poland and Germany taking the fastest-loser spots for tomorrow’s final.

Ireland’s time of 3:06.55 was a season’s best, but was two seconds off the Spanish quartet.

On his extra-curricular leap to avoid the awry Italian changeover in front of him, Barr recalled: “I was in two minds whether I would around him or go over him, and I thought I may as well put a bit of expertise into it.

“We did a great run, I think we can be proud of our performance today. I’m definitely happy with what we’re run today and proud of what we’ve run today because for such a young team – I’m the oldest at 26, for the last relay team I was on in Amsterdam, I think I was the youngest – there’s a huge amount of scope for us to improve.

“This is a whole new crop of 400m runners coming through.”

A youthful women’s 4x400m team came eighth in their semi, comprising Sinead Denny (27), Sophie Becker (21), Davicia Patterson (17) and Claire Mooney (26).

Their time of 3:35.96 was a season’s best as Italy, Britain and Germany took the automatic places in the final.

Mooney said: "It was great to run as part of a team. It's my first time in an Irish relay and I really enjoyed the team aspect. It's a young team and the potential is there.

"This is really good for a country of our size as you have to qualify in advance, you must be in the top 16 to be allowed compete.

"This realistically is all about building the quality heading to the Olympics in two years."

Michelle Finn and Kerry O’Flaherty were down the pecking order in the women’s 3000m steeplechase semi-finals – Finn placing 16th and O’Flaherty 17th in their respective semis.