Mael Sechnaill mac Domnaill

Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill was born circa 948 in Meath. He apparently had two wives, one of whom was Gormlaith, who later married Brian Boru. He was part of the Clann Cholmáin clan which was the dynasty descended from Colmán Mór. For centuries the title of King of Tara had been shared between two O’Néill clans. Máel Sechnaill was probably the most famous of the Uí Néill Clan because of his involvement in the Battle of Tara in 980 and the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

Reign as High King

By the time of Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill’s reign, the succession had passed between the Clann Cholmáin of the south and the Cenél nEógain of the north. After the death of Domhnall Ua Néill in 980, he gained the throne of the Southern Uí Néill. As High King of Ireland, he was involved in many famous battles, the most famous being The Battle of Tara, his greatest victory, where he defeated the Viking Leader, Olaf Cuaran. At this time there was a new power growing in Munster, Brian Boru (Bryan Boru). Mael Sechnaill made a truce with Brian Boru in 997 in which they both took control over their respective halves of the country;  Mael Sechnaill over the North and Brian over the South. Together both leaders put their efforts into taking Dublin, a Viking stronghold. On the Viking side, was Máel Morda mac Murchada, King of Leinster and Sitrygg Silkbeard, King of Dublin. This rebellion led to the Battle of Glenmama, in which Máel Sechnaill and Brian were triumphant in retaining their positions. The Vikings continued to revolt, gathering contingents from abroad. This resulted in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

His Decline Then Rise to Power

Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill was the last great power from the Uí Néill Clan. He had ruled as High King of Ireland from 980 to 1002. But his power had declined by the turn of the 11th Century. The Uí Néill’s faced many challenges to their rule from other kings including Brian Boru, who succeeded in overthrowing Mael Sechnaill as High King in 1002. He handed over his lands peacefully to Brian Boru after he was abandoned by his kinsmen of the Northern Uí Néill. Brian Boru was crowned High King of Ireland in 1002 thus overthrowing centuries of power of the Uí Néill in Ireland. After the death of Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf, Mael Sechnaill resumed his throne and recommenced his interrupted reign. He ruled as High King of Ireland until he died on Cró Inis Crannóg on the western short of Lough Ennell, County Westmeath in 1022. He was later buried in Armagh.