One of those glorious nights to remember in Irish athletics as Mark English and Ciara Mageean scored European Indoor bronze medals within 90 minutes of each other in Glasgow.
First out on track was Mark English in the 800m final, something that he feared last night would not happen at all after being stymied by Guy Learmonth’s inside manoeuvre in the semi-final that left the Donegal man back in fifth, and seemingly nowhere.
His successful appeal and advancement to the final is now history – an anecdote that he may get very used to telling for years to come, as his third Championship medal was without doubt his hardest won, and one that was in doubt until the very end.
English’s addition to the 800m final field gave race directors a headache – how to accommodate a seventh athlete among the six lanes.
In the end, the Irishman had to settle into lane three along with Denmark’s Andreas Bube – and both men would have a big role to play in the next two minutes’ worth of drama.
English got out well at the gun and was well placed in second at the break after the opening lap, behind Sweden’s Andreas Kramer, another prime candidate for a medal in an open final, having won European silver at last summer’s grand outdoor showcase in Berlin.
Around the 300m mark from seemingly nowhere, Bube shot out in front around the outside, and then it was game on.
This forced Britain’s Jamie Webb to become a live candidate, making the same move with 300m to go, with English doing his best not to get blocked on the inside. To his credit, he never fell outside the top three.
Spaniard Alvaro de Arriba took over just before the bell, and led out to take gold in 1:46.83, ahead of Webb in 1:47.13 - a new lifetime best for him.
A grimacing English held on for third in the closing straight in 1:47.39, holding off another Spaniard, Mariano Garcia, on the line.
It’s a third European Championship medal for the UCD athlete, having won bronze outdoors in Zurich in 2014, following up with silver indoors in Prague the following year.
The next two seasons were ruined by injury however, but English has found the spotlight returning to him after significant results domestically in recent weeks.
He 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.
Referring having to share a lane at the start in a major Championship final, English was never phased: “I wasn’t unused to it.
“It wasn’t that strange because you do it regularly on the circuit - at Diamond Leagues, the World Indoor Tour too.
“My plan was to get out fast and not be jostling around with anyone – and I managed to do that.”
Bube’s move could have upset the Irishman’s plans – but he had factored the Dane into his strategy.
“I was chatting to Steve (his coach Steve Magness) beforehand and I said Bube’s going to make a move with 400m left in the race,” English reported.
“He did it in his heat, he did it in his 2017 European Indoors final, so I had a feeling that would happen and I would keep a track on him, and not let anybody by me. I think I managed to do that.
“It was tough out there. The breathing got quite difficult.
“Just delighted to come away with a medal to be quite honest.”
As English was becoming only the third Irish athlete to win multiple European Indoor Championships medals after David Gillick and Derval O’Rourke, one interested viewer took two minutes out of her busy schedule to watch his triumph.
Just over an hour later, Ciara Mageean would make the same thing happen in a sensational race.
Mageean’s 1500m final place was earned by coming third in her semi-final heat on Friday, but the effort had left her quite ill in the aftermath of that race.
On Sunday night, she was back to her best as she got onto the podium alongside some two of the best names in athletics right now.
Laura Muir was unbackable as she plotted to retain her 1500-3000 double claimed in Belgrade two years ago, and sure enough, won by a large margin to delight her home Scottish crowd, having led from start to finish.
For everyone else, the thrilling climax was happening behind her.
Mageean allowed herself to float around the opening laps in sixth place but made her big move with two laps to go, gliding up to fourth spot on the shoulder of Serbia’s Amela Terzic, a woman with whom she had a long shared history – Mageean’s 1500m gold at the European Youth Olympics in Tampere in 2009 saw Terzic finish third. (The Serbian went on to claim gold to Mageean’s silver at the European Junior Championships in Tallinn two years later.)
With Terzic matched, then overtaken as the race sped up over the final 400m, Mageean was now third, and focusing firmly on Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui, who was lying second at the bell.
Mageean moved up into the silver medal position on the back straight just as Muir was clinching the gold.
Ennaoui still had something left though, as she worked her way on the outside past Mageean once more to grab second spot, presenting the Portaferry athlete with her second senior European bronze.
While there would have been immediate disappointment for the 26-year-old, her beaming smile dispelled that fairly quickly on being thrown the tricolour from the crowd.
Muir won in 4:05.92, with Ennaoui second in 4:09.30 and Mageean third in 4:09.43.
Bronze in Glasgow goes alongside the same colour medal claimed in Amsterdam at the 2016 European outdoors, where she recovered after a dramatic mid-race fall.
Mageean enthused: “Absolutely delighted. Over the moon.
“To be able to come away and show the form that I’ve been in, and come away with a medal, you can’t be any more happy than that.
“I was coming up on Terzic and I knew she was tiring, and I had it (in me) to go past her.
“I needed to be up there in third, and battling for all the medals.
“I just felt confident going in there and I knew I still had more in my legs, then fired on and I’m disappointed it’s not silver, but happy to win the bronze and I’m going to walk away with my head held high and have a good celebration tonight.
“Ennaoui battled back, she’s a class act as an athlete and I take my hat off to her.
“She battled back and got the silver – I’m disappointed it’s not the silver for me but… another day, and I’m sure we will be battling it out again in the future.”
The double success boosts Ireland’s all-time European Indoor Championships medal tally to 20 since its inauguration in 1970 – a further five medals were claimed in the preceding European Indoor Games that ran from 1966-69: three golds and a bronze for Noel Carroll, a bronze for Maeve Kyle.
It’s the first multiple medals claimed by Ireland at a Euro Indoors since three were bronzes were won by Fionnuala McCormack, Ciarán Ó Lionaird and (at a later date) Derval O’Rourke at Gothenburg’s Scandinavium in 2013.
The success brings Irish medals home for the eighth time in ten editions of this event, as only twice since Mark Carroll’s gold and James Nolan’s silver in Gent in 2000 have Ireland failed to medal – Paris 2011 and Belgrade 2017 when relatively small teams were sent.
Outside of the Irish glory, Jakob Ingebrigtsen was denied his own 1500-3000 double at the shorter distance when Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski bested the remarkable 18-year-old Norwegian by 0.40 seconds.
Poland were the most successful nation for the second successive edition, annexing five gold medals - with hosts Britain taking four, Spain three, and Norway two - as the Poles rounded off the weekend by retaining the women’s 4x400m relay.
Belgium (with three Borlee brothers included) took the men’s relay.
Cyprus won their first ever European Indoor Championships gold via Milan Trajkovic in the men’s 60m hurdles, and the Netherlands’ Nadine Visser claimed the women’s equivalent.
Shaylene Oskan-Clarke took home British gold in the women’s 800m, as some favourites won in the field – Mariya Lasitskene winning the women’s high jump as Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic made it three-in-a-row in the long jump.
Radosalva Mavrodieva of Bulgaria beat three-times European champion Chrstina Schwanitz of Germany and hat-trick-chasing Anita Marton of Hungary to pull off a shock win in the women’s shot put.
But it’s the double bronze secured by Mageean and English that will be the toast of Irish sport tonight – they’re both firmly back.