THEY say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there’s little doubt Ciara Mageean had been made to wait for her moment of glory in the Italian capital last Sunday evening.

The Portaferry runner wore the widest smile in the Stadio Olimpico as she stormed to a maiden senior gold medal with victory in a pulsating women’s 1500m final and emulated Sonia O’Sullivan as the only Irish athlete to ever land solo gold at European Championship.

With British pair Jemma Reekie and Georgia Bell forming something of a two-woman barrier at 100 metres to go, Mageean was primed for a gap to emerge and seized her opportunity to pounce once it did, charging clear to hit the line in 4:04.66.

In her own words, Mageean ‘didn’t grow up playing camogie to get boxed in.’

It completed the European set for the 32 year-old, who came into the Championships having won bronze in 2016 and silver in 2022.

Her path to gold has been far from a straightforward one – what was first considered a minor foot niggle that ruled her out of the 2012 Olympics in London soon turned into something much more serious and she was forced to undergo surgery, losing almost two years of her career in the process.

Disappointment at the Rio Games in 2016 was followed by more injury agony in Tokyo three years ago. But this triumph, coming 10 months on from a formidable fourth at the World Championships in Budapest, puts the Ards Peninsula woman firmly in the frame for a shot at the biggest prize of them all, less than eight weeks from now in Paris.

“I went out on that track super nervous, but with a plan and a mission and it was to hear Amhrán na bhFiann (the Irish national anthem),” beamed Mageean.

“It was true middle distance running out there. The last 100 metres are exactly where middle distance races are won and lost, so I was telling myself to have patience because it often opens up, and as soon you see a gap, make sure you take it.

“I feel like I’m ready for whatever the 1500m will throw at me. I’m a good championship runner and I’m proud to say that,” continued Mageean.

“When I was getting a bit boxed in, I thought, I have all the legs but nowhere to go. But I grew up playing camogie, and I didn’t grow up playing camogie to be too shy on an athletics track.

“I’m not scared of a tactical race or a fast race, like at the Worlds last year. The last few seasons have gone from strength to strength for me.

“To be able to bring the gold back for Ireland is something truly special, it’s everything I race for.