Ciara Mageean left perplexed by Athletics Ireland’s Covid-19 regulations

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Ciara Mageean was not planning on running in the national championships, but Athletics Ireland’s restrictions has impacted Mark English and Nadia Power.

Ciara Mageean has said she “didn’t understand” why Athletics Ireland enforced stricter regulations than the Government when it came to organising this year’s national championships.

Although Mageean was not intending to race this year, her fellow middle-distance stars Mark English and Nadia Power were ruled out of the event due to Athletics Ireland’s rule that anyone returning home from abroad — including those from green-listed countries — must self-isolate for 14 days before competing.

English raced in Lignano, Italy, last Monday, which makes him unable to defend his national 800m title this weekend. Power raced in Turku, Finland, a fortnight ago, which ruled her out of last weekend’s 1500m, but due to the timing she will still be allowed to line up in the 800m this weekend.

Former Irish team manager Patsy McGonagle said that Athletics Ireland “should be ashamed of themselves”, telling Donegal Sports Hub they had “devised and imposed a rule which is penalising elite athletes”.

The rule had been made clear since May, with Athletics Ireland unwavering on it since, and when asked about other sportspeople travelling abroad to compete last week, CEO Hamish Adams told The Irish Times: “I don’t think you can compare the professional teams to our amateur teams.”

Mageean believes Adams was referring in a general sense to the 727 athletes who entered the Irish championships, rather than professionals like her.

“I can’t speculate as to Hamish’s use of the word ‘amateur’, I think it was a poor choice of word, but I don’t approach the sport in an amateur way,” she said.

“I can only assume he meant the vast majority of athletes that compete at the national championships are amateur in the sense that they aren’t paid to do their sports, but I can assure you all the athletes who toed the line there are not amateur in their approach.

“The fact that the association had the two-week rule and the fact Athletics Ireland didn’t follow Government guidelines [around green-listed countries] is something I didn’t understand completely. I’m really disappointed for the athletes who would have hoped to be racing and couldn’t.”

It has so far been a stunning track season for Mageean, who became the first Irishwoman in history to break two minutes for 800m when clocking 1:59.69 in Bern last month before breaking Sonia O’Sullivan’s Irish 1000m record with 2:31.06 in Monaco.

Last Sunday, she turned in an off-colour performance at the Diamond League in Stockholm, trailing home 12th in the 1500m in 4:10.99, but she was not right going to the line.

“Sunday was an off day and it’s often in hindsight you realise there are some indicators that showed me and my coach I was a little off going into the race. I was on such a high off the back of the two previous performances that I didn’t realise how much they can take out of me, physically and emotionally.”

She will now put in a short block of training before three races in Ostrava, Berlin, and Rome through September, where she seems primed to challenge O’Sullivan’s Irish 1500m record of 3:58.85.

“It’s getting closer and closer and I know I can go under four, I’ll have an eye on Sonia’s record,” said Mageean. 

“Ever since I started my athletics career people couldn’t help bring up Sonia’s name and draw comparisons so I’ve been very used to that, but I would never draw that comparison myself.

“I always look up to her and see her as inspirational. She forged the path and I’m trying to follow in her footsteps.”

Ciara Mageean was speaking at the launch of Girls Play Too: Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen, a collection of stories about Ireland’s most accomplished sportswomen written by RTÉ Sport broadcaster, Jacqui Hurley.

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