Ciara Mageean: Portaferry runner squeezes into European Indoors 1500m final
|European Indoor Championships|
|Venue: Belgrade, Serbia Dates: 3-5 March|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, Connected TV, Red Button and the BBC Sport website. Full details and times|
Irish medal hope Ciara Mageean squeezed into the women's 1500m final at the European Indoor Championships on a fastest loser's spot.
Last year's European outdoor bronze medallist Mageean, 24, finished fourth in 4:12.81 in a race won by Eritrean-born Swedish entrant Meraf Bahta.
Portaferry's Mageean was also passed by Britain's Sarah McDonald [4:12.50] and Belarusian Daryia Barysevich [4:12.52].
Another Down woman Kerry O'Flaherty was last in her heat in 4:23.82.
Rio Olympic semi-finalist Mageean was prominent throughout heat two but was unable to change gear over the closing 300 metres as her time was marginally outside her season's best set in Athlone last month.
With only the top two guaranteed qualification, Mageean faced an anxious wait during the third heat but in the event, she had done enough to progress to Saturday evening's final at 18:45 GMT.
"My plan was to get one or two but I'm through to the final and that's all that matters," said Mageean afterwards.
The UCD student set her indoors personal best of 4:08.66 in Karlsruhe last February while her outdoor best is a world-class 4:01.46 achieved at the Diamond League meeting in Paris last August.
O'Flaherty tailed off in her heat
Thirty-five-year-old Olympian O'Flaherty, running in her first European Indoors, lost ground with the leaders at the midway point in her heat and finished over nine seconds outside her personal best set in Athlone three weeks ago.
Britain's in-form Laura Muir, after booking her spot in the 3,000m final earlier on Friday, led the qualifiers as she won the opening heat in 4:10.28.
North Down's Ben Reynolds missed out on a place in the 60m hurdles final as his time of 7.81 seconds left him sixth in his semi-final.
Reynolds's personal best is 7.73 and his fastest time this season is 7.77.
Donore athlete John Travers secured a final spot in the men's 1500m in bizarre fashion after a successful appeal by Irish team manager Patsy McGonagle.
Running in the second heat, the Donore runner and Spain's Marc Alcala both stopped for several seconds after only 40 metres of the race after the apparent second blast of the starter's gun indicated that there had been a false start.
Travers and Alcala attempted to get back into contention but were unable to do so as all the other competitors kept going with the Irishman eventually finishing over 16 seconds behind heat winner Filip Sasinek of the Czech Republic.
Both Travers and Alcala will now race in the final.
Brian Gregan was unable to secure a final spot in the men's 400m after finishing last in his semi-final in 48.08.
The Clonliffe athlete had finished second behind event favourite Pavel Maslak in his morning heat in 47.62 but found the going tough in the evening as the Czech favourite won the semi-final in 46.45.
Gregan set his indoor personal best of 46.07 in January 2013 and showed good form when clocking 46.59 at the Irish Championships two weeks ago.
Tomas Cotter was disqualified from his 3,000m heat as he was blamed for Sweden's Staffan Ek's fall, although the tangle with around 800m left put paid to the Irishman's own chances as he quickly lost ground.
Dundalk man Cotter, who set his personal best of 7:56.17 in the US two weeks ago, crossed the line in ninth spot in 8:15.85 before news of his disqualification came through.
In the morning session in Belgrade, Irish women's 400m hopefuls Sinead Denny [54.20) and Phil Healy [54.80] missed out on semi-final places while Zak Curran exited from the men's 800m after clocking 1:50.87 to finish fifth in his heat.