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The Stag star Hugh makes it to portrait shortlist

Actor Hugh O'Conor, who starred as Amy Huberman's other half in light-hearted comedy 'The Stag', has made the shortlist for the inaugural Hennessey Portrait Prize at the National Gallery of Ireland. O'Conor took the sepia tinged portrait entitled Beckah while waiting at the departure gate of Dublin airport.

"She was on her break and sitting one row over," he explained. "We made about five shots."

O'Conor wrote to Beckah weeks later asking if he could submit her portrait for the competition

"She wrote back and said it was not her favourite [shot] but I could use it," he said.

O'Conor's portrait was among 400 entries for the Portrait Prize.

"We were blown away by the level of interest," Curator Anne Hodge said. "There were such a variety of images and mediums submitted."

Erin Quinn's portrait, Adam, is one of the most striking images in the gallery and comes from Quinn's Breaking Point series - which captures the moment individuals break the surface of water having held their breath for as long as possible.

Others found inspiration closer to home, Una Sealy painted a portrait of her son sitting in a bay window playing a ukulele while Geraldine O'Neill sketched her daughter holding a plastic bag with a goldfish in it.

Donegal artist John Beattie submitted a more abstract piece; a video which was shot, edited and produced over the course of eight years. The work portrays a master and apprentice's relationship that developed between Beattie and Thomas Ryan.

The 12 finalists were selected from over 400 entries by a panel of judges comprising Dr Declan Long from the National College of Art and design, Donald Teskey from the Royal Hibernian Academy and Director of the National Gallery of Ireland Sean Rainbird.

The exhibition will open this Saturday and will run until 8 February 2015.