Davy Byrnes story award: shortlist of six revealed

Tales of isolation in small-town Ireland, a boys’ football team, post-war Finland, the end of the world, a difficult daughter, and soured relationships vie for the €15,000 prize

Judges Anne Enright and Jon McGregor in Davy Byrnes, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Judges Anne Enright and Jon McGregor in Davy Byrnes, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons


Have you heard the one about the pub and the short-story competition? It sounds like a tall story in itself. But this is for real: Davy Byrnes, on Dublin’s Duke Street, is once again sponsoring an award for Irish writers.

“We felt that because Davy Byrnes was immortalised by James Joyce in Ulysses, when Leopold Bloom went for his Gorgonzola cheese sandwich and his glass of burgundy, we ought to do something to give something back to the arts – and particularly to literature,” says the pub’s owner, Redmond Doran.

The Davy Byrnes short-story award was previously held in 2004 and 2009. The first was won by Anne Enright, the second by Claire Keegan. This year Enright has returned as a judge, along with the English novelist Jon McGregor and the Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li.

This year’s competition attracted some 600 entries, which were whittled down to 30 by a panel of readers overseen by Declan Meade of The Stinging Fly Press.

The judges have chosen both a shortlist of six – which is being announced today – and the winning story, which will be revealed in early June. The winner will receive a prize of €15,000, and the six shortlisted stories will be published in one volume by The Stinging Fly Press in the autumn.




Sara Baume

Baume’s short stories have been published in The Moth, The Stinging Fly and the Irish Independent as part of the Hennessy New Irish Writing series. Her reviews and articles on visual art and books have also appeared online and in print. Her debut novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither, will be published by Tramp Press in 2015. She lives in Whitegate, Co Cork.

What the judges said: Solesearcher1 is set in a small town on the Irish coast, and the characters in it are creatures of habit. The story shows the moment when that sense of habit becomes strange, difficult and sinister, but there is great pleasure in the writing and this makes a piece that is about loneliness and isolation very enjoyable, somehow, with tenderness and insight on every page.”


Go Down Sunday

Trevor Byrne

Byrne was born in Dublin in 1981. His debut novel, Ghosts and Lightning, is published by Canongate. He is co-founder and senior editor at the Editing Firm. He is working on his second novel, and a series of short stories.

What the judges said: Go Down Sunday, the story of a boys’ football team on a week away in small-town Ireland, is an absorbing tale about the moments in which boyhood cracks open towards adolescence; the excitement of independence, the ease with which home is left behind. The story has a dark heart, and the reader is manipulated with the same ease as the main character; we are left, as in the best stories, with troubling questions.” 



Julian Gough

Gough sang on four albums by Toasted Heretic. He is the author of three novels, Juno & Juliet, Jude in Ireland, and Jude in London, and a poetry collection, Free Sex Chocolate. He has won the BBC National Short Story Award, and been shortlisted twice for the Everyman Bollinger Wodehouse Prize. He lives in Berlin.

What the judges said: Harvest is a story in which very little happens. A woman and her husband stay up late to watch the Oscars, and have distracted conversations in which neither is quite listening to the other, and finally they make love. It’s a sweet and powerful evocation of a mature relationship, with the suggestion of unfathomable loss at its heart. Oh, and the world ends, terribly and awesomely and inescapably. And whether you read the apocalypse as awesome prophecy or tender metaphor, this is a superb story.”


The Iron Age

Arja Kajermo

Kajermo was born in Finland and grew up in Sweden. She drew strips for In Dublin magazine in the 1970s, subsequently published as Dirty Dublin Strip Cartoons. She drew for The Irish Times, Evening Press, and Sunday Tribune. She now draws for the Swedish morning newspaper Dagens Nyheter, and has had three cartoon books published in Sweden. She lives in Dublin.

What the judges said: “The Iron Age is set in post-war Finland, when the country is dominated by the Soviet Union and forgotten by the rest of the world. Seen through a young narrator’s eyes, life is full of hardships and puzzlement and dark humours. A memorable chronicle of a family’s struggle during a less well-known period in history.”



Colm McDermott

McDermott was born in 1988 and grew up in Clane, Co Kildare. In 2010 he completed a pharmacy degree in Trinity College Dublin and worked for a time in the pharmaceutical sector. He is working as a volunteer English teacher in Cambodia. The story was written on the road, in cafes, guesthouses, on planes, buses, across Indonesia, Borneo and the Philippines.

What the judges said: “In Absence we read about two men, a woman and an epileptic dog. So much could have gone right: friendship, neighbourship, ownership, even love. Yet things go wrong, and in place of trust is mistrust; in place of forgiveness, resentment; and in place of love, loneliness.”


The Dinosaurs on Other Planets

Danielle McLaughlin

McLaughlin’s stories have appeared in newspapers, journals and anthologies, including The South Circular, Southword and What’s the Story? Recent awards include the Willesden Short Story Prize 2013, the Merriman Short Story Competition (2013) in memory of Maeve Binchy, and the Dromineer Literary Festival short story competition 2013. She lives in Cork.

What the judges said: “In The Dinosaurs on Other Planets a difficult daughter brings a new man with her when she comes home to visit. It has no big point to make, nothing is overstated, everything feels particular and right. It is a real landscape with real people in it, and the emotions that rise to the surface are all the more moving for being true.”

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