The Battle of Athenry, August 10, 1316

The O'Kellys, in common with most of the great clanns of Ireland fared badly from the Norman Invasion of Ireland. Many of the invading soldiers were poorly paid and seized captured land in lieu of payment, not only in the traditional O'Kelly territory of Connacht, but all over Ireland. One of the men most responsible for their misfortune was the fourth Baron in descent from William de Bermingham who had accompanied Strongbow in the Norman Invasion of 1170. He was called Risteard na gCath ("Richard of the Battles") and was reverred as a great soldier and military man by the Irish from their many encounters with him.

For many years the poorly armed gaelic chieftains lost a great deal of land to the invading Normans. Hope dawned for them with the arrival of Edward Bruce in 1315 from Scotland. Richard Burgo, Earl of Ulster, along with Fedhlim O'Conor, marched against Bruce, but was defeated. Driven by the defeat of battle, declared loyalty for his enemy Edward Bruce and made several raids on the English settlers in Connacht.

Sir William Leigh De Burgo and Risteard na gCath were sent against him in an attempt to halt the raids and restore Norman rule. Fedhlim met them with a strong army but in a bloody battle near Athenry on August 10th , 1316 was defeated. Fedhlim, the last of his name who assumed sovereignty, was killed on the battlefield along with many of his men. From that moment the power of the O'Conors and the O'Kellys, who had ruled the region for generations, received its fatal blow. Among those killed was O'Kelly, King of Maneach, and most of the nobility of Connacht and Munster.

Such were the numbers and the nobility of the gaels that fell during the battle that the outcome effectively established the domination of the English in the region and the victorious de Burgos as Lords of the region. Their lands streched from the Shannon to the sea and they made Galway City their seat of power, in which all the principal heads of the family took up residence.