Ciara Mageean wasn’t shy in declaring her intentions for tonight’s European Championship 1,500m final. She was turning up at the iconic Olympiastadion to win a medal and to drape a tricolour around her shoulders in celebration.
That’s exactly what she did.
The Portaferry woman produced a season’s best time of 4:02.56 to take the silver medal behind Great Britain’s Laura Muir but it was the manner of the run as much as the rewards that stood out.
Mageean took the lead early on and then responded instantly when the Scot surged to the lead with 800 to go - and again when Muir, the red-hot favourite, injected another burst with about 250 to go. This time Mageean was eventually burned off.
In that, this was the same as when the pair finished one-two at the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham but there was an extra feistiness and obstinacy in Mageean here as she rose to the challenge and fought the good fight.
In the end, she was left behind coming down the stretch but she had done more than enough to take the silver a full second ahead of the fancied Sofia Ennaoui of Poland who finished fifth to Muir’s third at this summer’s World Championships.
“I’m over the moon,” Mageean said. “It’s been a fantastic season so far. To come out and win silver for Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games, it was always going to be pressure, but I came out and felt I needed to do it in an Irish vest and see the tricolour raised.
“It’s always tough with a week between the championships but I know I’m in great shape to bring a medal home for Ireland. It’s everything I want, to see that Irish flag raised."
The duel with Muir will live long in the memory.
Mageean had visualised just such a scenario – and many others – in the three days since her semi-final and she was ready for the moment when, with exactly two laps to go, the race favourite flew past her.
Muir had got the jump on her in just that fashion in Birmingham but the reaction here was instantaneous and the crowd rose in appreciation at the duel that followed. Mageean had done all she could and tipped a metaphorical hat to the winner afterwards.
“I thought going up the home straight, ‘maybe this would be my day. It’s what I wrote in my training diary today. My time will come, I sure as hell tried. I fell a little short of gold but I can’t be disappointed, I laid it all bare on the track.”
It’s six years since she won her first European Championship medal. That was a bronze claimed in Amsterdam. This latest success leaves her in serious company as one of only three Irish athletes to have won more than the one medal at this continental gathering.
The others? Sonia and Derval. No surnames required.
Mark English could, a bronze medallist in Zurich eight years ago may yet make it a club of four.
He was up immediately before Mageean and the Donegal man made for the perfect opening act by sealing his place in Sunday’s final of the men’s 800m with a second smooth run of the week.
The former European bronze medalist came in behind Mariano Garcia of Spain and Great Britain’s Jake Wightman with a time of 1:46.66 and he will be aiming for another podium place in what is a very open race.