Viking Rivals In The Early Years

Brian Boru (Bryan Boru) was in conflict with the Vikings from an early age. Throughout Brian’s life there had been a constant struggle, fighting and dealing with the Norse from a youth in Killaloe, to his rise to kingship of Munster and all of Ireland and the path to the Battle of Clontarf, where he finally drove the Vikings out of Ireland.

He had a happy childhood; living with his large united family in a time of abundance. But this was not to last, as the Vikings had invaded and their frequent attacks from their base in Limerick proved to be some of the worst days of tyranny for the Dalcassians, the dominant Munster clan. Brian’s earth is shattered when Viking’s plunder his home and kill some members of his family including his mother “The centre of his world”.  A heartbroken Brian is sent away to study at Clonmacnoise. During his time there he thought of nothing but defeating the Vikings, and it is strong in his mind when he returns home after his studies.

He went on to fight them in a number of important battles. First of all came the Battle of Sulcoit which was a ruthless battle between the Dal gCais and the Norse of Limerick, fought beside his brother Mahon. They were triumphant but Ivar the Viking leader seeking revenge hatched a plot and had Mahon assassinated. Seeking revenge for the death of his brother Brian went into battle with Máel Muad mac Brain, King of Munster resulting in The Battle of Belach Lechta.  A brutal battle was fought on this day and Brian victory made him King of Munster.

The Battle of Bealach Leachta marked a serious defeat for the Danes in Ireland and established Brian Boru (Bryan Boru) as a serious contender for position of Ard Rí (High King) of Ireland.

Road To The Famous Conflict in 1014

Brian Boru (Bryan Boru) had formed an alliance with Mael Sechnaill the High King of Ireland. Brian would rule the south of Ireland and Mael Sechnaill would rule the North. They began to put their efforts into taking back Dublin which had allied with the King of Leinster and launched several attacks into Meath and beyond challenging the power of the High King.

This resulted in the Battle of Glenmama where they faced the the forces of Mael Morda of Leinster and Sigtrygg of Viking Dublin. Brian and Mael Sechnaill’s armies were triumphant in deadly and difficult conditions. After this battle, both rebels remained in their positions but  continued to revolt gaining support from Viking contingents abroad. The Danes in Dublin had been successful in placing a king on the throne in England and perhaps hoped to do the same in Ireland. 

In 1002, Máel Sechnaill himself finally submitted to Boru (Bryan Boru) after the Battle of Glenmama.  As Brian Boru grew stronger and set about to assert his control over the whole island, the Uí Néill King, Mael Sechnaill was abandoned by his northern kinsmen and obliged to acknowledge Brian as High King of Ireland thus ending the reign of the Ui Neills.

As Brian's power increased, relations with the Viking Danes worsened. Sigtrygg and Mael Morda formed a coalition with Norse leaders in the Hebrides, the Orkneys, Iceland as well as Brians Irish enemies, some of whom were Irish Chieftains. The most famous encounter with his enemies the Vikings was the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. On Good Friday in 1014, Brian’s forces met and crushed Leinster and her Viking allies near Dublin on the plains at Clontarf. Though victorious Brian met his death at this battle at the hands of a Viking who murdered him in his tent at the battle site.

The Battle of Clontarf is a key event in the history of the Vikings in Ireland as it ended the power of the Vikings and any attempt to dominate the island of Ireland, as well as being the final chapter in the dramatic career of the Great Brian Boru.