Best sporting moments of the year - No 9: Ciara Mageean’s sparkling night in Brussels

A reserve the day before the race, Mageean won the Diamond League race and broke the Irish 1,500m record

Athletics – Diamond League 1,500 metres, Brussels, September 2nd

The line-up for the women’s 1,500 metres was a crammed one, 18 athletes in total from the inside lane curving its way to the outside. In a dark singlet, Ciara Mageean – who’d be a reserve only the day before but aiming to make the most of her late call-up – took her place five places in, edging her spikes up to the line.

Ahead of her would be the best run of her life.

The meet organisers had planned for a fast race. Noélie Yarigo, an 800 metres specialist, was on track to act as pacemaker but her opening lap of 60.68 seconds was too fast, and so it was that those with designs on actually winning settled into a more realistic pace some 10 metres behind. Among those with wiser heads were Mageean and Laura Muir, protagonists in European Championships and Commonwealth Games already during the summer.


This time, Mageean would be the one to taste victory.

Entering the final lap, Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji had opened up a lead. Muir, sensing the gap was too big, made an effort to close it. Mageean crossed the line with 400 metres to go in fifth place but made her own move down the back stretch. One stride after another she moved into position to challenge around the bend. Then, on the home stretch she moved into the lead and never relinquished it.

When she was done, she’d broken the four minute barrier for the first time. More than that, Mageean’s time of 3 minutes 56.63 seconds broke the Irish record held by Sonia O’Sullivan. That record had seemingly been set in stone, established as it was back in 1995.

Mageean had slumped to the tarmac after her super effort, spent. A tap on the back from Muir brought new life into her body and both the Scot and the Irish runners hugged in the sheer joy of the moment.

“People say that in athletics and in life every so often you have a day where you are completely in the zone. It doesn’t happen when you want to and you never know when it will happen. I can only say that is how I felt today. I was in the zone, and it felt like I was running on clouds,” said Mageean when she managed to catch her breath.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times