Ciara Mageean: European bronze medallist says injury led to doubts about career
European bronze medallist Ciara Mageean says her serious ankle injury did lead her to have doubts about whether she would build on a stellar junior career.
The Portaferry woman underwent surgery almost exactly three years ago and it was a further 14 months before she was able to race again.
"It was a long tenuous road back to championship racing," said Mageean, 24.
"I was confident I was going to try but you can never be sure what the future is going to bring."
After bursting onto the Irish Athletics scene by winning a national indoor title as a 15-year-old in 2008, Mageean continued a remarkable junior career by winning silver medals at the 2009 World Youth Championship and 2010 World Juniors.
Mageean missed out on London 2012
However after running an Olympic B 1500m standard in 2011, Mageean missed out on qualifying for London 2012 as the ankle problem began to inhibit her severely.
After splitting with her then Belfast-based coach Eamonn Christie in early 2013, Mageean, by now studying at UCD, linked up with former Olympian Jerry Kiernan a few more months shortly before undergoing her surgery in London.
"I had a fantastic group of people behind me with the staff of Athletics Ireland and physio Emma Gallivan and my coach Jerry Kiernan who took me under his wing just before my ankle surgery.
"Jerry would come to watch me training when I was only able to jog for about five minutes but he would make it his business to be there."
Mageean was greeted by a large crowd of family, friends and supporters as the Irish team returned to Dublin from Amsterdam on Monday morning.
The county Down woman was pushed to the front of the arrivals queue by Athletics Ireland's high performance manager Kevin Ankrom.
"Kevin said you have to go out first. I said 'OK'," laughed Mageean.
"I'm over the moon. It's not every day an Irish athlete comes home with a medal from a European Championship."
Mageean finished the race not realising that she was only the third Irishwoman to win a European championship medal, after the previous exploits of Sonia O'Sullivan and Derval O'Rourke.
"It's kind of dawning on me now but it probably won't hit me fully until I'm back in the house or having a chat with my coach."
After earning her first senior championship medal in Amsterdam, Mageean will now refocus for her Olympic Games challenge in Rio next month.
Before that, Irish fans will have a chance to see her in action at the Morton Games at Santry on 22 July.