I read this book prior to Cahill's "How the Irish Saved Civilisation" which is better known due to its run on the bestseller list. I found that reading this book first was a good choice, because its deep background made Cahill's book a better read. In fact, "Early Celtic Christianity" proved to be an excellent read because it allowed a friend (a Cahill reader) and I to compare and contrast the two different views of this interesting point in history. Largely about the same era, this book focuses particularly on three of the more important saints of Ireland -- Brendan, Columba, and Columbanus, and because of this has the distinct advantage of being able to concentrate on some of the smaller details of their lives, and how that effected the turning points of the day, including the christianization of Scotland and the controversial Council at Whitby. While Cahill tends to be more secular and political in his approach, Lehane is more religiously and historically oriented, leading to a more intimate view of the culture. I also found it refreshing that he was careful to present well documented materials as facts and rumors and legends as theories, rather than muddying the two together. It invites you to make your own decisions on how to interpret. A good read all around. A great second read for those who enjoyed Cahill.
If you have read neither book, I recommend both, making this one the first. It presents a firmer foundation (in my humble opinion) and gives Cahill's quicker and lighter view of Columbanus a strong background.