Global battle to be the High King of Ireland

Two of the world’s superpowers are to battle it out on Irish soil — for the coveted ancient title of High King of Ireland.

A retired US police officer and a Russian lawyer are among the international entries to try and emulate the legendary Irish warriors, Na Fianna.

As part of The Gathering, the Tara High Kings Festival is already gathering global attention from athletes willing to travel thousands of kilometres for the challenge, which will take part on Co Meath’s historic hill on Sunday, Sept 14.

Kirk Lawless is already planning his trip from St Louis in the US, where he recently retired after over 27 years in the police force.

Kirk — whose grandfather Francis hails from Cork — has appeared in several short films and is an avid outdoor man, hunter, and fisherman. He has already been to Ireland and has contributed a poem to a soon-to-be-published book about Tara.

He said: “I am an artist, a poet, and a writer and am much enamoured of all things Irish. I am a member of the Emerald Society and Ancient Order of Hibernians and I dabble in blacksmithing.”

The 53-year-old holds a BA in criminal justice as well as a degree in creative writing and is well versed in Irish history, poetry, and music.

In his application, he stated: “I think I would make an awesome king or at the very least, I would bring some awesomeness from the States to the table of your competition.”

Meanwhile, Vitaliy Negoda — a Russian lawyer said in his application: “Dia Dhuibh, Many thanks for the revival of the tradition. The idea is just grand.”

The 31-year-old says his name translates in Irish to Bhiatailidh Fionn.

His mother’s ancestors — MacDowells — came from Ireland to Russia at the beginning of the 18th century.

He said: “One thing our mother’s family has passed down to us through the generations is a foot-high potted plant with shamrock-shaped leaves that are heather-like purple on one side. We believed that our mother’s ancestors grew these plants to remind them of Ireland, but recently I’ve discovered it’s a common plant called purple shamrock.

“Very probably, my MacDowell ancestors when they came to Russia were Gaelic native speakers, the same with most of the Irish population at the time.

“However, my family unfortunately has lost the Irish language over the years but now is the time to revive the culture, language, and traditions.

“Since my childhood, I have been interested in the Gaelic martial arts. As a child, I read ancient stories about Gaelic heroes of Ireland and I always wondered whether anything of the great warrior culture of my ancestors remained.”

In 2006, he opened a Gaelic martial arts group in his home town of Krasnodar in Southern Russia, which includes Celtic wrestling and Irish stick-fighting.

“My school was the first in Russia who performed the Gaelic martial arts on Russian TV.”

Vitaliy takes part in Gaelic Skype lessons and has taught five commands in Gaelic to Bran — his Scottish terrier.

Kirk and Vitaliy will join 11 others who will undertake an elite contest — mirrored on the feats of the Fianna — to be crowned the new High King of Ireland.

Organisers say they are “working with experts to design the most interesting and spectacular, modern-day interpretation of these tasks for festival crowds to cheer and enjoy”.

Further information on the event — a non-profit, community initiative — can be obtained at tarahighkingsfestival.ie

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