Mary McLoone had developed something of an affinity with the triple jump at the National Senior Indoor Athletic Championships.
When the Cleengort, Lettermacaward native jumped 12.58 metres in 2013 at the Athlone Institute of Technology International Arena, it confirmed a sixth successive title; her eighth in all.
There was no double by the time the Woodie’s DIY Senior Track and Field Championships rolled around that July.
McLoone, on the face of it, didn’t seem too far from her best form as she jumped 12.39 metres in Santry and was unfortunate to lose out narrowly to Mayo’s Caoimhe King.
An Achilles’ injury had festered - tendinopathy - with the fibres becoming muddled and the strain increasingly difficult to deal with.
“I was second having lost by two centimetres,” McLoone says. “I was injured but kept competing as I’d trained so hard and wanted to make the most of the work I’d put in. It didn’t help in the long-term.”
McLoone, who was by then approaching her 32nd birthday, was married later that year to Ciaran McDevitt whilst continuing to teach at Glenswilly National School.
Had she never jumped an inch again her legacy would’ve been assured. From her first evening at Tir Chonaill AC as a 12-year-old, McLoone had progressed to the international stage. She had represented Ireland in three Europa Cups and led her club in European Club deciders in Belgium, Switzerland and Slovakia.
“It did go through my mind,” McLoone says about calling it a day. “Training is time consuming and there’s a lot of commitment and that then impacts on other people.
“Injuries are frustrating; especially when they’re not healing as you would like.”
Having first been the national indoor champion triple jumper in 2000 as a teen, McLoone won the long jump and triple jump in 2005.
Then, an imperious run of success saw her triumph in the triple jump every February on a six-year run from 2008 until 2013.
“I was out all last year but decided to go to Athlone to watch,” McLoone adds. “I love indoors and the atmosphere it creates.”
King, who jumped 12.84 metres, was the queen again.
McLoone, who hadn’t been beaten at the event since 2007, could only wonder what might have been.
“I’d almost have preferred to just have gone there and lost it,” she says. “I knew at the time I was in too much pain to jump. It wasn’t easy to watch.
“It’s more difficult when you’re sitting in the stand and would love to be competing and would love to have a go at retaining the title.”
With the chance to retain the indoor title gone McLoone looked at regaining it.
After the best part of 18 months out with injections providing only short-term relief before rehab proved more substantial, she threw her hat in the ring.
“If that niggle comes back then it’s very difficult to jump from my left foot,” McLoone says. “I can’t jump from the right as everything I have built up is from the left.”
Whereas in years gone by McLoone would’ve travelled to the national indoors at Nenagh, Belfast or Athlone with an air of confidence, last week was different.
“I wouldn’t have expected to win and was anxious because I just didn’t know how it would go,” she says.
That anxiety might’ve played a factor in her, after a decent approach, overstepping the mark on jump one.
“After the break, it was just important to get the second jump in,” McLoone adds. “It does settle nerves too.
“I over-stepped the first one a little bit. You have to alter it slightly for the next jump. I was more nervous than in previous championships and if you miss the second jump then the pressure gets even bigger.”
McLoone, who could hear her own heart beating, landed a jump of 12.10 metres on her second attempt.
“With the training I had done I wouldn’t have expected to get 12 metres at all,” she says.
Totting through her previous eight wins, McLoone was aware that, in some instances, a jump of 12.10 was one that would give her a fighting chance.
In 2000 she won gold with 11.57 metres, while nine years later her still-standing PB was 12.80 metres.
“The nature of jumping is that you don’t know until the last round,” she says. “I had a good idea of what each of the girls were capable of. Not too many of them have achieved 12 metres before.”
It was - after the six rounds came and went - enough.
“I was delighted to have won,” McLoone adds. “I’m probably a little ahead of schedule in some respects but I’ve not really done the winter training so have work to do.
“With time between now and the outdoors there’s scope to test it further.
“I want to gradually build it up. But I’ve some confidence in myself now.”
With such a decorated career, Mary McLoone has the hunger to achieve even more.
After her injury, she’s got a spring back in her step again.
Let’s just see where that takes her.