The manager of a Dublin youth club where the BAFTA-winning actor Barry Keoghan starred in one of his first drama roles has hailed the Irishman as a “fantastic role model” who is already inspiring the next generation.
The 30-year-old Dubliner – who is also nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor alongside the veteran Irish actor Brendan Gleeson – was praised after dedicating his Bafta win to Ireland and “the kids that are dreaming to be something from the area I come from”.
Keoghan, whose mother struggled with drug addiction and died when he was a child, was placed with a dozen foster homes along with his brother before going to live with his grandmother.
In the wake of the dizzying success of his acting career, pupils at Keoghan’s former school said he was inspiring – something that Gillian Collins, operations manager of Belvedere Youth Club, agrees with.
“It’s amazing, it’s so positive. It’s great that the north inner city is out there in the media for positive news for a change, not all the negativity. It’s so inspiring,” she told PA.
Keoghan was a member at the club for several years as a young teenager, and starred as Link Larkin in their 2010 production of Hairspray – The Musical, one of the first acting roles he ever had.
“He was a charmer,” Ms Collins says.
“He had the little gift to the gab, the little glint in his eye and was full of energy.
“He was just a normal lad from the inner city who had a dream, and put his head down and worked hard and followed that dream, and he’s a fantastic role model. I’m very proud of him.”
As they prepare to put on the next production of Hairspray in May, he’s already inspiring young boys to try their hand at acting, she said.
“The girls are always interested in dancing and singing, and it’s only the last couple of weeks that the boys have shown some sort of an interest.
“I have a little chap that I just happened to pass by in a corridor and said ‘Oh yeah, you got the main part, that’s brilliant. You know, (Barry Keoghan) was the main part when we did Hairspray back in 2010 and now he’s nominated for an Oscar?’ and it was like ‘He is?’
“It’s like a snowball has started now and is gathering momentum.”
She said that the level of excitement for Barry Keoghan is similar to when Irish boxer Kelly Harrington – who is from the same area of Dublin – won an Olympic gold medal in 2021, and that there’s a “great buzz” about his success.
“Even to be nominated, you’re putting yourself out there on the whole world stage – little Barry from the flats, that’s amazing,” she said.