DECISION TIME Neill O’Neill Creativity Awards Photography judges Frank Dolan, Alison Laredo and Michael McLaughlin pictured during their deliberations.
The judges for the Neill O’Neil Creativity Awards have hailed the high standard of entries across the board for the inaugural staging of the competition.
Run in memory of the late Neill O’Neill, former Managing Editor of The Mayo News, the awards generated a huge response with over 800 entries.
There were three sections – Art, Photography and Writing. Each section was split into three categories – National School, Secondary School and Adult.
In total there were nine winners – three in art, three in photography and three in writing. Each of the nine grades also had four merit (runners-up) awards.
All entries were under the theme ‘what Mayo means to me’.
The winners and merit winners will be presented with their awards at a special presentation night this coming Saturday evening at 6pm in Westport Town Hall Theatre.
The awards were adjudicated upon by leading professionals in the respective fields.
The writing judges were Mayo News award-winning columnist Seán Rice, Mayo News Living Editor, Ciara Moynihan and award-winning writer EM Reapy from Claremorris.
The photography judges were esteemed Mayo professional photographers Michael McLaughlin, Alison Laredo and Frank Dolan.
The art entries were judged by art history lecturer Dr John Mulloy and Mayo-based artists Marie Wood and Breda Burns.
The identities of all entrants were withheld from the judging process in all categories to ensure fair and impartial judging
“We’ve been simply amazed by the quality and quantity of the entries,” said awards co-ordinator Edwin McGreal.
“We are so indebted to everyone who took the time to sit down and enter. It was clear from the 800 plus entries that a lot of time and skill went into people’s submissions.
“It was very difficult to pick the winners and I know the judges found it very hard to whittle it down to a winner and four runners-up in each of the nine sections. They were keen to stress that the quality of submissions from those who were not picked was still very high and everyone who entered is to be lauded for their efforts.
“We are also extremely grateful to all the teachers in national and secondary schools in Mayo who went out of their way to co-ordinate and encourage entries in so many schools. This competition has revealed to us not just the undoubted talents of the next generation but the good hands they are in at schools throughout the county,” added McGreal.
The theme of the awards was chosen to reflect the late Neill O’Neill’s love of place.
“Neill was extremely passionate about being from Westport and being from Mayo and it is clear that pride of place is very strong in this county when we examined the level of engagement with the theme,” said McGreal.
“There’s no doubt too of the role Gaelic football plays in people’s passions in this county. The volume of entries which focused on the Mayo senior football team was staggering,” he added.
In a nice coincidence a niece and nephew of Neill O’Neill’s feature among the Merit winners.
Ruairí O’Neill, a pupil of St Colmcille’s NS at Westport Quay, picked up a Merit award in the National School Art category.
Kelly O’Neill, a student of the Sacred Heart School, Westport, was selected as one of the Merit winners in the Secondary School Photography category. Even more fittingly, it is for a photograph of her cousin, another niece of Neill’s.
“It’s clear the creative flair we all remember Neill having runs in the family,” said Edwin McGreal.
All the winning photographs and art entries will be on display at the awards night on Saturday night. They, together with the writing winning entries, will also form part of a commemorative supplement in the paper in June and also feature as part of an exhibition over the summer months.
Any Art entrants who wish to collect their submission can do so during office hours in The Mayo News between Tuesday, June 4 and Friday, June 14 or else contact The Mayo News (098 25311) to arrange a collection time.