It’s been a spectacular night for Irish athletics, with Ciara Mageean and Mark English claiming bronze medals at the European Indoor Championships.
Mageean’s 1500m triumph was a real thriller, and proved to be the main battle in her final, as Laura Muir led from start to finish to retain the 1500-3000 double she first scored two years ago in Belgrade.
The Portaferry athlete was locked in sixth for much of the race, but made a major move up to fourth with two laps to go.
From there, the Irishwoman overtook Serbia’s Amela Terzic to move up to third – only Muir and Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui were ahead of her.
And with Muir well clear, the Pole proved a catchable target for Mageean, going alongside Ennaoui with a lap to go, then surging past.
But in the final straight, Ennaoui got a final surge of pace to slip past the green vest once more to grab the silver, as Mageean crossed the line well clear of the rest in third.
Having claimed bronze over the same distance outdoors at the 2016 Europeans in Amsterdam, it’s Mageean’s second major Championship medal, capping the first European indoors since 2013 where Ireland have gained more than a single medal.
Mageean’s result comes after Mark English became only the third Irish athlete to win multiple European Indoor medals, bagging bronze in the 800 metres - his third major Championship medal at the distance.
English had been advanced to the decider after tripping over Guy Learmonth of Britain in the semi-final, putting him in as a seventh starter in the six-lane final.
The Donegal man got out well and remained just behind early leader Andreas Kramer of Sweden, until Dane Andreas Bube shot out in front after 300m.
Spaniard Alvaro de Arriba took over just before the bell, and led out to take gold in 1:46.83 ahead of Britain’s Jamie Webb (1:47.13 a new lifetime best for him), with English third in 1:47.39, holding off another Spaniard, Mariano Garcia, on the line.
English previously won bronze outdoors in the Europeans in Zurich in 2014, and indoors claimed silver in Prague the following year.
Speaking immediately after the race, a triumphant English said: “It’s a big gap between this and the first two medals. It’s a hundred per cent worth it.
“’It’s worth all the training, all the long runs in the winter, all that strength work and it’s a big relief to have crossed that line and come away with a medal."
“’It’s worth all the training, all the long runs in the winter, all that strength work and it’s a big relief to have crossed that line and come away with a medal.
Referring having to share a lane at the start in a major Championship final, English said he wasn’t phased: “I wasn’t unused to it.
“It wasn’t that strange because you do it regularly on the circuit, at Diamond Leagues, World Indoor Tour too.
“My plan was to get out fast and not be jostling around with anyone – and I managed to do that.”
This tremendous double result means that Ireland have medalled at eight of the last 10 European Indoor Athletics Championships, with Mark Carroll's gold and James Nolan's silver starting the modern Irish medal rush in Gent in 2000.
Since then, only the Championships in Paris in 2011 and Belgrade two years ago have seen Irish hopes come up short - both of which saw relatively small Irish squads sent.
Ireland have now claimed 20 medals at the European Indoor Championships since they were inaugurated in 1970 - 25 taking into account the previous European Indoor Games, where Noel Carroll won three consecutive golds in the 800m (plus a bronze), and Maeve Kyle earned a bronze.
Ireland's previous European indoor champion was David Gillick, who won back-to-back 400m crowns in Madrid in 2005 and Birmingham in 2007.
Alistair Cragg had also claimed 3000m gold in his debut championships for Ireland in Madrid, but it proved to be an early peak to his Irish career.
Globally, Ireland haven't medalled at a World Indoors since Derval O'Rourke's famous 60m hurdles triumph in Moscow in 2006, but it’s the third time since then that the nation has managed to grab multiple medals at the indoor Euros.