Donegal has always felt wedded to the East End of Glasgow – and this evening Mark English will hope to tighten the knot even further.
By Chris McNulty in Glasgow
English goes in the 800m final at the 2019 European Indoor Championships at the Emirates Arena, reinstated following an appeal last night having been, in the view of the track referee, unfairly impeded in his semi-final.
English was a silver medallist at these Championships in Prague four years ago and also has an outdoor European bronze medal from 2014 on his mantlepiece.
Still, English is chasing fresh fulfilment, after two years of injury woe, in an area that has close historical ties to home.
Thousands of Irish, among them God knows how many of Donegal origin, set up home in Glasgow’s East End.
Like English had to last night after coming off the track, they had to fight tooth and nail.
The Emirates Arena, where English lines up in this evening’s final – timed to go at 6.57pm – is built in the very shadows of Celtic Park, where hundreds still make the fortnightly pilgrimage from Donegal.
Celtic Park’s first turf was imported from Donegal and there’s always been a deep affinity and connection between the areas.
The East End is home to the Wellpark Brewery, the birthplace of Tennent’s Lager, a favoured in many public houses in Donegal and Glasgow.
English has a chance to go deeper into Donegal sport’s annals when the sets off just before seven o’clock.
“I’m excited and I can’t wait to get out there and give it socks,” the Letterkenny man said after being reinstated.
English was impinged by Great Britain’s Guy Learmonth on the third lap of four in his semi-final.
English – who has recently returned to form and showed glimpses of the old magic along the way – cruised through his heat on Friday, crossing the line in 1:49.38, but finished fifth in the semi, in 1:50.70.
English, though, was added to the final and said: “Thankfully, it worked out. I’m really happy about it and I’m excited to get out there now and give it everything.”
English faces the rare prospect of having to share a lane with another competitor, as he sets off in lane three alongside Denmark’s Andreas Bube.
Following last evening’s controversy, the gamble for English will be a case of stick or twist and a question of just how much aggression of takes with him from the gun.
On this season’s form, English is the fourth-ranked of the seven finalists.
Before his departure for Glasgow, English spoke of his hopes: To be in the final and be ‘in the mix’.
English described his medal prospects as being akin to ‘a coin toss’. Or, perhaps, it’s who keeps the head and avoids the sting from the others’ tails.