Shane the Proud started up and called to his people to rise out and release his father. Nothing pleased the English better. An army was sent northward to Ulster to bring this foolish young man to discipline, but he came upon them suddenly from the West and rushed right through them, and they were knocking the heels off each other in flying from him. Another army was prepared the next year (1552), but Shane drove it before him like a flock of goats. There was a man opposing the English this time. They released Conn O’Neill in order to make peace, but it was little good. Shane the Proud had tasted blood.
‘Somebody must check this proud, arrogant man,’ said the Lord Lieutenant from England, and he put in order and prepared a strong body of men. Their visit to the North was in vain, for Shane used to meet them in a place where they did not expect him; he used to startle them and inflict damage on them, and he would go off bold and domineering.
Matthew gathered together a body of the clan, for some of them continued under his flag, and he started to help the foreigners, but Shane stole upon them in the middle of the night, and he routed Matthew speedily. ‘Let us build a stronghold in Belfast to keep him in order,’ said the Knight, Sir William Brabazon. Shane broke in upon them in the unfinished fort, and destroyed most of them. He broke in, in the same way, upon another body of Brabazon’s party near Derry, and scattered them. It was no wonder that fear fell upon the English, and that they fled back to Dublin.
They let him alone for four years after that (1554-8), but Shane the Proud had no desire for peace. He remembered that Ulster had belonged to his ancestors. Let the strong hand be uppermost, said he to himself. It would be necessary for the other chiefs to submit to him. If he had been as clever as Hugh O’Neill he would have made bonds and friendship with those haughty chiefs instead of forcing them to yield to him.
O’Reilly, the new Earl of Brefny, said to him that he would not submit to him in any case; but the fiery man leaped through him (i.e., through his forces), and O’Reilly was obliged to be humble towards him for the future. It was not so with O’Donnell in Tir-Conaill, nor did the Clan Donal from Scotland yield, who inhabited the glens by the sea in Antrim; but Shane turned his face against them all, both Gaels and foreigners. He did not succeed very well in the attempt he made to bring the sturdy children of Tir-Conaill under his rule, for Calvach O’Donnell sprang upon him secretly in his tent at night at Balleeghan (on Loch Swilly), and he nearly destroyed Shane. A great many of his men fell in that sudden rout, and he lost arms and horses, and among them his own coal-black steed. That charger was the finest horse in Ireland. They called him the Son of the Eagle. Shane got him back again. That check did not long hinder so powerful and intrepid a man.
Matthew fell in some brawl with a few of Shane’s people in the year 1558, and the English tried to attribute the crime to Shane himself; but he said he had nothing to do with Matthew’s death, and that they would have to be satisfied with that answer. Conn O’Neill died the following year (1559).
‘The road is clear for Shane now,’ said the clan; ‘we will have no earl for a head over us any more.’