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

On September 14th 2013 an elite tournament of 13 carefully selected contestants will compete with each other to find the new High King of Tara.

As part of the Gathering, the Tara High Kings Festival is already attracting global attention from athletes willing to travel thousands of miles for the challenge which will take part on Co. Meath's historical hill.

In ancient times, Tara was both the political and spiritual meeting point for the Irish and some 142 High Kings were officially crowned there.

Kirk Lawless is busy planning his trip from St Louis in the US, where he recently retired after over 27 years in the police force. The retired cop, whose grandfather Francis hails from Cork - has appeared in several short films and is an avid outdoorsman, hunter and fisherman.

Speaking ahead of the upcoming challenge he said: "I am an artist, a poet and a writer and am much enamored 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-heeled" in Irish history, poetry and music.

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.

In 2006 he opened a Gaelic Martial Arts Group in his hometown 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."

His mother's ancestors - Mac Dowells - 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 plant to remind them of Ireland but recently I've discovered it's a common plant called Purple Shamrock."

He said: "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."

He continued: "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."

For more information on the event - which is a non-profit, community initiative - go to www.tarahighkingsfestival.ie


The Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny at The Hill of Tara, Co. Meath, ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland until the 6th century ADDave Walsh