The new High King of Tara is Portlaoise man Paul O’Brien, who proved himself a true Fianna warrior at the recent Tara High Kings Festival.
Paul (42) from Newpark, now living in Mayo, was one of a dozen entrants to the first High Kings festival in Meath.
He was invited to enter by fellow contestant Darren Cawley, a transplant recipient who competed on behalf of the Irish Kidney Association.
“It was an unusual event, and I always had an interest in my heritage. The festival itself was brilliant,” said Paul.
He was set six tasks, modern day versions of the Fianna entrance test, when warriors had to do things like run from nine attackers through a forest without breaking a twig, and recite twelve books of poetry.
Paul was well suited to the job. A fitness instructor and adventure sports enthusiast, he is a keen traveller and has lived in many countries. He is also a stage actor, poet and sports writer, writing his own poem for the competition.
He is proud of the fact he is an O’Brien, descendents of famed High King Brian Boru.
The tasks were tough.
“They were physically very challenging, testing strength, balance, speed and co-ordination,” he said.
He and Darren made it to the final two, before Paul was declared High King in a music filled ceremony atop the Hill of Tara.
“It was a great honour to win,” said Paul, who received a staff and a cloak.
His parents Seamus and Bernadette and brother Brendan were there to support him.
“It was fantastic, we were very happy,” said Seamus.
Paul’s next big task is his wedding day this Saturday, to fiancée Irene from Mayo.
“She was delighted I won, but she was a bit apprehensive with it being so close to the event,” he said.
Paul is planning to return to Tara next year.
“I hope to go back next year and defend my title, especially as it will be 1,000 years since the Battle of Clontarf ,” he said.