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Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Marvel Mageean

European Cross Country Championships
Venue: Santry Park, Dublin Date: Sunday, 13 December Times: senior women start 1315 GMT, senior men start 1410 Coverage: BBC Red Button 1000-1310 and 1400-1500; BBC 2 1300-1400; All on BBC Sport website (UK only)

By John Haughey
BBC Northern Ireland

Ciara Mageean is positively relishing the prospect of running in front of a large home crowd of Irish fans in Sunday's European Cross Country Championships in Dublin.

Time and time again at major championships over the past two years, Mageean has produced.

Her coach Eamonn Christie doesn't expect it to be any different this weekend in the junior women's event at Santry - even though Mageean is better suited to shorter distances on the track.

Ciara Mageean hopes to follow her brilliant track season with an impressive showing in the European Cross Country in Dublin on 13 December

"You can't teach her that. She knows how to get herself ready and how to prepare for big races," adds Christie.

"She always does it on the day and in my opinion, Ciara is going to be a phenomenal athlete over the next few years."

Inevitably the comparisons with a certain Sonia O'Sullivan have been doing the rounds in Irish athletics circles.

The well-grounded Mageean had the pleasure of spending time in the Cobh great's company at this year's European Youth Olympics.

Mageean, of course, clinched gold and O'Sullivan came away from the event mightily impressed with the Portaferry girl's performance.

"I'm just honoured to be compared to such an athlete," adds Mageean, who will do her A-Levels next summer.

"I'm just focusing on my own running and trying to do as well as I can and I don't take too much on board what everybody else says.

Whenever it gets to the big races and you see the tricolour, you're filled with the win to win for yourself, your country and your family

Ciara Mageean

"But I did go out for a few runs with her in Finland. She's a fantastic woman and so down to earth.

"You would think you would be a bit star-struck being with Sonia O'Sullivan but she just chats away and puts your at your ease."

Mageean does not need to hang on the words of sports psychologists as she prepares for big events.

"But I'm pretty nervous below it all and there's always those worries that every athlete has whether you've peaking at the right time.

"I just try my best when I get out on the track. I don't really focus too much on it beforehand."

Medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games (bronze), World Youth Championships (silver) and European Youth Olympics (gold) are testament to Mageean's competitive instincts and ability to control her nerves.

"Whenever it gets to the big races and you see the tricolour, you're filled with the will to win for yourself, your country and your family.

"I don't really know what I can put down my successes in major competitions down to. But I do enjoy them."

Sonia O'Sullivan
Sonia O'Sullivan saw Mageean win this year's European Youth Olympics 1500m title

Mageean's performances on the European and world stage mean that she is currently being courted by several US universities including the likes of famed running academies Villanova and Providence College while even Harvard have been in touch with the Portaferry girl.

"She's also a very bright girl academically so all the big US colleges have been in touch with her while there will be other options closer to home for her as well," adds Eamonn Christie.

But inspite of all the praise and offers of scholarships, Mageean's character suggests that she will maintain a level head.

After finishing 17th in Brussels 12 months ago, Christie believes Mageean will be comfortably in the top 10 at Santry and there is that suspicion that a vocal home crowd could inspire her to achieve something special.

Norway's Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal, a silver medalist in the junior event in 2006, is likely to go into the race as favourite after winning her national senior cross country title recently.

Grovdal also achieved an outstanding 3000m steeplechase and 5000m double triumph at the European Junior Championships in Serbia during the summer.

With holder Stephanie Twell no longer in the junior ranks, other Britons Kate Avery and Lauren Howarth, third last year, are also expected to challenge strongly although their compatriot Charlotte Purdue has been ruled out by injury.

Italy's Veronica Inglese, Belgian Jana van Wabeke and the Ukraine's Olha Skrypak could also be in the mix but Mageean is unlikely to be intimidated by any of the opposition.

A team medal could even be on the cards for the Irish girls if they pack well with Mageean's training partner Emma Mitchell and Ballymena & Antrim's Eimear Black also in the six-strong line-up.

"Hopefully a good few people from my home town are able to get down to Dublin and it's going to be fantastic to have support from all over Ireland," concludes Mageean.

see also
Euro challenge
07 Dec 09 |  Athletics
McKillop ready to face Europe's best
07 Dec 09 |  Athletics
Mageean gears up for Euro Cross Country
03 Dec 09 |  Athletics
Irish pick Euro Cross selection
28 Nov 09 |  Athletics
McKillop wins Irish junior title
22 Nov 09 |  Athletics
McKillop aims to match Smyth feat
17 Nov 09 |  Athletics
Sprinter Smyth claims Irish title
02 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Smyth claims second Beijing gold
16 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
Smyth wins 100m gold in Beijing
13 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
McKillop claims gold for Ireland
10 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
McKillop mission
03 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport

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