Ciara Mageean has said that not seeing former coach Jerry Kiernan is something she will find tough “every time I step back home to Ireland”.
Former Olympic athlete and renowned coach Kiernan died aged 67 in January.
Mageean was one of a number of athletes the Kerry native guided and she said he will be on her mind when she competes in Sunday’s European Cross Country Championships in Dublin.
“The news of his passing hit me very hard,” she told Sportsound Extra Time.
“It’s something that I’m going to find very tough every time I step back home to Ireland and I don’t see Jerry walking around the course with his Barca scarf around his neck, his big long coat on and his arms behind his back, watching us run around.
“It was certainly something that myself and my boyfriend Thomas discussed coming back from the nationals, it was strange not to have Jerry there shouting onto the course at us.”
Portaferry runner Mageean paid tribute to Kiernan after his passing and once again reiterated how much he meant to her as a coach and a friend.
“I feel we’re truly blessed in life when we have someone who comes into our life and leaves lasting footprints on our hearts, and Jerry was one of those people for me,” she continued.
“I’ll miss him dearly, but I’m so grateful to have had him in my life as a coach, mentor and a friend because there are very few people that leave that much of a lasting impact on you.
“I know I’m not the only one to feel that way. No doubt he’ll be having the best seat in the house watching us race the Euro cross and he would have loved to be there, I’m sure of it.”
Mageean keen to finish 2021 ‘with a bang’
The European Cross Country Championships will take place at La Mandria Parkon Sunday, with around 750 athletes and officials expected to travel to Dublin for an event which will encompass seven races.
Mageean, who failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the Olympic 1500m in the summer and later said a calf injury hampered her preparations, said Sunday’s championship will provide an opportunity to end what she described as a challenging year on a high.
“I’ve rehabbed back and have been looking forward to the European Cross Country, which has been in the sights of the Irish team for quite a while now having been postponed from last year,” she explained.
“Having a home cross county championships will be really special, so it gives me something to focus on to finish the year off with a bang.
“It’s always an interesting thing for me, I cut my teeth in cross country, that’s really where I started athletics, but then realised that my true powers were on the track and that’s where my talent lay.
“Cross country probably isn’t my strongest point in the athletics realm but I enjoy stepping out onto the cross country course, it’s a relentless place to be. You’re right into the lion’s den, there’s nowhere to hide out there.”
The 29-year-old, whose 2021 has been disrupted by injuries, is confident for the Irish team as a whole going into Sunday.
“The Irish team have a fantastic history at the championships, 2019 being no exception, which was a record-breaking year for the Irish, coming home with a lot of medals.
“We have to set ourselves up and do better than that in a home cross country. I’m super excited for the relay, I’ve never raced the mixed relay at the Euro cross, and we have a strong team and I’m hoping we can bring home the goods for Ireland.”