Athlone continues to bask in glory of hosting annual All-Ireland Drama Festival


A 10 day celebration of amateur drama culminated on Saturday night as the All Ireland Drama Festival hosted a gala awards ceremony within the surrounds of the Radisson Blu Hotel Athlone.

The gala awards ceremony affords the opportunity for the respective drama groups, nine of which performed during the perennially popular festival, to be recognised for their performances on the Dean Crowe Theatre stage.

Stellar work from the All-Ireland Drama Festival committee ensured each drama group performance was rapturously received by a sold out Dean Crowe Theatre auditorium as thoughts now turn towards the hosting of the 2025 version of one of the standout occasions on the town’s social calendar.

Festival Director, Regina Bushell, congratulated the nine groups who graced the final and thanked them for their commitment, hard work and dedication to their craft, noting that the festival was a great success with the town of Athlone looking its resplendent best.

The chairperson expressed her sincere gratitude to the festival’s main sponsors, RTÉ, for their continued support of the festival - this being the 20th year of their title sponsorship, further thanking the nightly sponsors and the local and national media for getting behind the festival and contributing to the successful event it has now become.

Her thoughts were echoed by Amateur Drama Council of Ireland chairman, Liam Hannaway who stated that the standard of each production was of such a quality that any of the participating groups could grace a professional stage. He commended the Abbey Theatre for their continued support of drama, additionally noting the contribution of competition adjudicator, Tom Byrne.

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Ballyduff Drama Group Crowned Champions

Amid great tension, Ballyduff Drama Group, directed by Ger Canning, were crowned RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival champions for their performance of ‘The Ferryman’ by Jez Butterworth.

Dalkey Players, directed by Emma Jane Nulty, who presented ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Millar, were placed second and first-time qualifiers Ballycogley Players, directed by Pat Whelan, who performed the farce ‘Out of Order’ by Ray Cooney were placed third.

No strangers to Athlone, Ballyduff Drama Group last won the All-Ireland in 2022. Ger Canning claimed the best director award, while John Stack, playing Quinn Carney, won the award for best actor and Mary Colbert won the award for the best actress in a supporting role. The Drama Group also achieved two further accolades during the gala presentation ceremony, Noel Hayes, winning the award for best stage management and Donie O’Sullivan achieving for best stage setting prize.

Ballyduff Drama Group has been performing on the three act circuit for over 40 years. Prior to this year’s achievement they had won the All-Ireland on two occasions, in 2004 and 2022. In performing the ‘Ferryman’, Ballyduff embraced the term ‘never work with children or animals’, as the drama group’s performance included appearances by a live and very engaging baby boy, a local baby named Paidi, a live goose and a rabbit.

Bride Rosney Award

To mark the 20th year of RTÉ as title sponsor of the All-Ireland Drama Festival a special one-off prize, the Bride Rosney Award, was awarded to newcomers from each group. Bride Rosney served as Director of Communications at RTÉ from 2002 to 2009. During her tenure, the partnership with the All- Ireland Drama Festival began and it was she who laid the foundations for the years of success which followed.

Her partner, Peter McMenamin, presented the awards to the respective winners, namely Shay Hannon, Ballycogley Players Drama Group, Seán Foley, Ballyduff Drama Group, Sam Asaylee, Ballyshannon Drama Society, Joseph Sunderland, Bridge Drama, Claudia Verdecchia, Clontarf Players, Rachel McConnell, Dalkey Players, Mickey Brannigan, Newpoint Players, Lauren Mitchel, Prosperous Dramatic Society and Naoise O’Connor, Wexford Drama Group.

Additional Award Winners

Rachel O’Connor, Ballyshannon Drama Society, claimed the best actress award for her role as Margaret Thatcher in the premiere of ‘Margaret’ by Shaun Byrne, while the award for best actor in a supporting role went to Sean Carty, Ballycogley Players Drama Group.

Tom Byrne awarded the adjudicator award to Alison Rogers, Newpoint Players, for her truly exquisite masks for ‘In the Shadow of the Glen Reimagined’ by Sean Treanor after JM Synge.

Audiences were treated to a fine display of theatre during this year’s All-Ireland Drama Festival. Amongst the finalists were several premieres, that of a new Irish play, ‘Margaret’ relating to Margaret Thatcher in her final years, ‘In the Shadow of the Glen: Reimagined’ (after JM Synge ) and a festival premiere of ‘Radium Girls’. Two Arthur Miller plays, ‘A View from the Bridge’ and ‘The Crucible’ also featured. There were performances by two first time qualifiers, as well as performances by former winners and qualifiers.


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