McDonagh won the award, which recognises new and emerging talent, for his debut feature The Guard.

John Michael McDonagh is the winner of the Guardian’s First Film Award for his debut feature The Guard.

The Irish comedy about a local garda who takes on a trio of drug smugglers opened the Sundance Film Festival and secured a Golden Globe nomination for its star Brendan Gleeson.

McDonagh said of his win: “I’m really chuffed about it, to be honest. It’s terrific. I read over the longlist and thought there was a lot of very strong films there. Snowtown is one of my favourite films of the year, Attack the Block is probably the best British film of the year – so to come out on top, I’m pretty surprised and very pleased.”

Now in their fourth year, the Guardian’s First Album and First Film awards recognise new and emerging talent in their respective areas, especially those that may not have initially received the attention they deserved.

This year’s winner was selected by a judging panel made up of Guardian film writers Catherine Shoard, Andrew Pulver, Peter Bradshaw, Xan Brooks and Henry Barnes.

Meanwhile, McDonagh is now gearing up to shoot his second feature, Calvary, about a priest who is victimised by members of his community, again starring Brendan Gleeson, for Reprisal Films.