Murchad (d. 727), son of Bran (Bróen) Mút and overking of Leinster, belonged to the dynasty of Uí Dúnlainge. His father, Bran, was credited with overkingship of the province; according to the ‘Banshenchas’ (lore of women) his mother was Almaith of the Dál Riata. It appears that Murchad had a brother or half-brother named Congal. His only recorded wife was Conchenn, daughter of Cellach Cualann (qv) of Uí Máil, overking of Leinster. It is likely that Conchenn, whom he married probably c.710, was not his first wife; she is not named as the mother of his elder sons Dúnchad (qv), Fáelán (qv), or Bran Becc (d. 738), all three of whom appear to have been born in the opening years of the century. According to the record, only Muiredach (d. 760) was her child. In addition to these four sons, Murchad had a daughter Condal (qv) who, having attained a venerable age, died as abbess of the house of seniors at Kildare in 797.
Murchad is featured in the ‘Leinster episode’ of the Irish Life of Adomnán (qv), a piece of tenth-century propaganda, which may be based on earlier sources; the account reflects an Iona preference for Uí Dúnlainge over other Leinster dynasties. At a convention where Cellach Cualann and his other retainers allegedly confronted Adomnán, the youthful Murchad alone showed due respect, and so it was foretold that he and his descendants would hold the provincial kingship. Precisely when Murchad attained the kingship of Uí Dúnlainge is not clear, but he may have been too young to succeed his father directly at the time of the latter's death (693). He is not included among the royal witnesses to the Law of Adomnán in 697; but indeed the only Leinster ruler listed is the then overking, Cellach Cualann, whose daughter Conchenn was to become Murchad's wife. On the evidence of the Leinster king-lists (which, admittedly, is difficult to reconcile with the annals) Murchad enjoyed a reign of fifteen years. Clearly, he cannot have aspired to overkingship of the province earlier than 715; the implication may therefore be that he attained kingship of Uí Dúnlainge in 712.
Historically, Murchad came to prominence when his father-in-law Cellach Cualann died in 715. There are indications that he successfully turned his marriage-alliance to his advantage; perhaps he exploited rivalries amongst Cellach's sons. That year, the annals note, Murchad went on a hosting to Cashel, but no further details are supplied. In 719 there was an internal conflict among the Leinstermen in which Áed son of Cellach was slain, although it is not clear what role, if any, Murchad had in this. In any case, dissension in the Leinster camp was an invitation to the Cenél nÉogain king of Tara, Fergal (qv) son of Máel-dúin, to launch attacks southwards. According to one source, he did so on five occasions before the year 719 had ended.
Having decided that the modus vivendi heretofore maintained by his predecessors with the Southern Uí Néill kings of Tara was no longer sustainable since the (re)emergence of the northern dynasties, Murchad sought a new political orientation. He may have formed an alliance with the powerful Munster king Cathal (qv) son of Finguine; in any case, the pair devastated the plain of Brega in 721. A response soon came from the Uí Néill side and, although later traditions about a renewal of the legendary bóruma (cattle-tribute) can be discounted, it is not improbable that Murchad tendered submission to Fergal but failed to pay a tribute. The king of Tara launched a major invasion of Leinster in 722, but was defeated and slain by Murchad's forces at the battle of Allen. This conflict, the latest historical event to be enshrined in saga literature, forms the theme of ‘Cath Almaine’.
In the years following this victory additional pressures were exerted on Uí Dúnlainge, this time from the Uí Néill dynasties of the midlands and from a rival dynasty in south Leinster, Uí Chennselaig. It seems that Murchad was content to allow his elder sons to deal with these threats, perhaps due to failing health. In any case, he died in 727 of natural causes, aged probably about 50. After a brief but sharply contested succession struggle in which his brother Congal and a son of Cellach Cualann were contenders, Murchad's eldest son Dúnchad emerged as successor to his father.