Niall Bourke from Kilkenny has won the prestigious Linen Hall Michael McLaverty Short Story Award for his story ‘The Catch’. The two runners-up are Sadhbh Moriarty for ‘Saint Caillín and The Carwash’ and Dawn Watson for ‘The Condition of Stopped Time’.

McLaverty winners 3

(left to right: Sadhbh Moriary, Niall Bourke, Dawn Watson)

The winner will receive £2,000 and his story will be published in a limited edition anthology along with the stories of the runners-up, who each also receive £250. The anthology entitled The Catch and Other Stories will be available to purchase in the Linen Hall for £5.00.

The Michael McLaverty Award was set up to foster and encourage the tradition of the Irish short story. It has run biennially since its inception in 2006.

Michael McLaverty (1904 – 1992) was one of the foremost proponents of the Irish short story. His archive was donated to the Library by the Literary Executors of Michael McLaverty in 2005.

Adjudicators for this year’s competition were multi-award winning writer Donal Ryan (The Spinning Heart; The Thing About December; All We Shall Know; A Slanting of the Sun; From a Low and Quiet Sea; Strange Flowers) and Patsy Horton, Managing Editor of Northern Ireland’s Blackstaff Press.

On being announced as the winner Niall Bourke commented: “Delighted! Sure it’s great, especially after last year to get back to things like this again. It’s a privilege.”

Donal Ryan commented on the winning story: “’The Catch’ is a gleaming piece of work, an elegantly crafted study of the tension between tradition and pragmatism, as the young hunter strains against the bonds of convention. Place and action are rendered and melded so sublimely that the writer’s hand disappears completely, leaving the reader alone to witness and share the hunter’s defiance, her transgression and her triumph, to hear ‘each passing second as it sought to set itself, the tightening coil of the present moment preparing to move out against the future world.’”

Linen Hall Librarian Samantha McCombe says: “In an increasingly competitive literary world with ever evolving forms, the Michael McLaverty Award continues to celebrate the enduring vehicle of the short story. The award has also proven to be a significant steppingstone for previous winners, many of whom have gone on to flourishing literary endeavours.”

Adjudicator Patsy Horton said: “It’s a great pleasure to be involved in the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award again this year. There were a huge number of entries and it was exciting to see the richness of the writing that was submitted. We have been living in extraordinary times over the last eighteen months – and many of the entries reflected that – but one thing that has remained constant is the power that stories have to draw us in into other worlds and reveal deeper truths. The winning entry, ‘The Catch’ by Niall Bourke, succeeds brilliantly in this, as do the entries by runners-up Sadhbh Moriarty and Dawn Watson. All three writers have created stories that are vivid and fresh and that stay with you long after you have finished reading. I’m delighted that the Michael McLaverty Award can be a showcase for such wonderful writing.”

For more information about the 2021 Michael McLaverty Short Story Award, please visit the Linen Hall Library website

Editor’s Notes:

Winners’ Bios

Niall Bourke – ‘The Catch’

Niall is originally from Kilkenny but now lives in London, where he teaches English. He writes both poetry and prose and, since completing an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University of London in 2015, has been published widely in magazines and journals in both the UK and Ireland. His poems and short stories have been listed for numerous awards, including twice for The Costa Short Story AwardThe ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust AwardThe Mairtín Crawford Short Story Prize, The New Irish Writing Award, and the Fitzcarraldo Novel Prize. In 2017 he was selected for Poetry Ireland’s Introductions series. His debut poetry collection Did You Put The Weasels Out? was published in April 2018 and was longlisted as one of The Poetry Schools’ books of the year. In spring 2021 Tramp Press published his debut novel, Line. In March 2022 Broken Sleep Books will publish his second poetry collection, a Choose Your Own Poetry Adventure called ‘The Erection Specialist’. He is represented by Brian Langan at Storyline Lit Agency.

Sadhbh Moriarty – ‘Saint Caillín and The Carwash’

Sadhbh Moriarty is an award-winning playwright and fiction writer living in Cork City. Born and raised in County Kerry, her writing reflects the nuances of rural Irish living often tinged with elements of magical realism. She was the recipient of the Individual Artist’s Bursary Award (Cork City Council) and the Agility Award (Arts Council Ireland) in 2021. She is currently working on her debut novel and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Brighton.

Dawn Watson – ‘The Condition of Stopped Time’

Dawn Watson is a writer from Belfast. Her debut poetry pamphlet The Stack of Owls is Getting Higher (2019) is published with The Emma Press. She is a PhD candidate at Queen’s University researching prose poetics. Dawn has short stories in anthologies Still Worlds Turning (No Alibis Press, 2019) and Belfast Stories (Doire Press, 2019). She also writes for BBC Radio 4. She won the 2018 Doolin Writers’ Poetry Award and has been published in journals including The Manchester ReviewBlackbox Manifold and The Stinging Fly, and has work forthcoming with Granta. Dawn is working on her first novel with support from ACNI.

Adjudicators’ Bios

Patsy Horton: Patsy Horton is Managing Editor of Blackstaff Press. She has been involved in publishing for almost twenty years, and has worked closely with authors on their writing for almost all of that time. She has a PhD in English Literature from Queen’s University Belfast and an MA in French and English from Glasgow University. She provides professional development support to writers through the Irish Writers Centre and is Chair of Quotidian – Word on the Street, an organisation dedicated to putting literature into public spaces.

Donal Ryan: Donal Ryan, from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, is the author of six bestselling books. He has won numerous awards for his fiction, among them the European Union Prize for Literature, the Guardian First Book Award and three Irish Book Awards, and has been shortlisted for several more, including the Costa Book Award, the IMPAC award and the Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne. He was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2013 for his debut novel, The Spinning Heart, and again in 2018, for his fourth novel, From A Low and Quiet Sea. His work has been adapted for stage and screen and translated into over twenty languages. The Spinning Heart was voted Irish Book of the Decade in 2016 in a nationwide poll run by Dublin Book Festival. His latest novel, Strange Flowers, set in Nenagh and London, was published in August 2020 by Doubleday and entered the Irish charts at number one. A law graduate and former civil servant, Donal has lectured in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick since 2014 and lives in Castletroy with his wife Anne Marie and their two children.

 For more information about the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award or the Linen Hall Library please contact Rachel Wetherall, Head of Digital and Marketing Comms, at [email protected] or tel: 028 9032 1707.