List of Irish county nicknames
This is a list of nicknames for the traditional counties of Ireland and their inhabitants. The nicknames are mainly used with reference to the county's representative team in gaelic games organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). A few of the names are quite old and well-known; most are recent coinages mainly used by journalists. Some refer specifically to the Gaelic games county colours.
Many counties have multiple nicknames — for example, Kildare may be called "the short grass county" or "the thoroughbred county" — while some counties have separate nicknames for the county and people: for example Wexford is often called the Model county, and Wexford people are called "yellowbellies". A few nicknames are shared: any Connacht county playing a team from elsewhere may be dubbed "the Westerners"; London GAA or New York GAA may be called "the Exiles"; Westmeath, Fermanagh, and Cavan have each been called "the Lake county".
|County (GAA link)||Nickname||Origins and notes|
|Antrim (GAA)||The Glensmen||From the Glens of Antrim|
|Antrim (GAA)||The Saffrons||From the county colours|
|Armagh (GAA)||The Orchard County||The rich fruit growing country to the north-east of the city of Armagh is known as the "Orchard of Ireland". (The local electoral district in that part of Armagh is called "The Orchard".))|
|Armagh (GAA)||The Cathedral County||The Primates of All Ireland's seats (both Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic) are in the city of Armagh|
|Carlow (GAA)||The Dolmen County||Brownshill Dolmen is near Carlow town|
|Carlow (GAA)||The Barrowsiders||River Barrow|
|Carlow (GAA)||The Fighting Cocks||Carlow was famous for cock fighting in the early nineteenth century. "The Fighting Cocks" is also a crossroads on the N80 road which names a district between Tullow and Nurney and its GAA club|
|Carlow (GAA)||The Scallion Eaters||In the early nineteenth century, most of the onions sold in Leinster were grown near Carlow town|
|Cavan (GAA)||The Breffni||Mediaeval Kingdom of Breifne, centred on Cavan|
|Cavan (GAA)||The Lake County||Lakes include Loughs Gowna, Oughter, Ramor, and Sheelin|
|Clare (GAA)||The Banner County||From the banners at monster meetings supporting Catholic Emancipation leader Daniel O'Connell's by-election campaign in the constituency of Clare in 1828|
|Cork (GAA)||The Rebel County||Originally from Cork city's support for pretender Perkin Warbeck in 1495; reinforced by Cork's prominence in the Irish War of Independence (1919–21) and the Irish Civil War (1922–23)|
|Cork (GAA)||The Leesiders||River Lee|
|Cork (GAA)||The Donkey Aters (Eaters)||Applied in particular to the vicinity of Skibbereen in West Cork, where people resorted to eating donkeys during the Great Famine|
|Derry (the GAA county) or Londonderry||The Oak-leaf County||From the leaf on the county coat of arms and on the crest of Derry GAA; Derry is an anglicisation of Irish language Doire "oak-grove"|
|Donegal (GAA)||The Hills||The Derryveagh Mountains and Bluestack Mountains are called The Hills of Donegal in many folk songs|
|Donegal (GAA)||Tír Chonaill or Tyrconnell||Mediaeval kingdom, often used in place of the official Dún na nGall as the Irish name for the county|
|Donegal (GAA)||The O'Donnell County||Mediaeval lords|
|Donegal (GAA)||The Herring Gutters||The fishing industry is important, especially in Killybegs|
|Donegal (GAA)||The Forgotten County||Donegal is almost cut off from the rest of the Republic of Ireland by Northern Ireland|
|Down (GAA)||The Mourne County; The Mournemen||Mourne Mountains. In GAA contexts, "Mournemen" is often applied specifically to the football rather than the hurling team; though not always|
|Down (GAA)||The Ardsmen||Applied specifically to the hurling team. From the Ards peninsula, stronghold of hurling in the county|
|Dublin (GAA)||The Dubs||Clipped form of "Dubliners"|
|Dublin (GAA)||The Liffeysiders||River Liffey|
|Dublin (GAA)||The Jackeens||Pejorative term for Dubliners; contrasted with culchies|
|Dublin (GAA)||The Jacks||Reclaimed version of Jackeen|
|Dublin (GAA)||The Metropolitans||Dublin city is the metropolis, i.e. the capital city|
|Dublin (GAA)||The Pale||The Pale was the region around Dublin subject to English control in the 14th and 15th centuries|
|Dublin (GAA)||The Big Smoke||A reference to severe smog problems that endured until the late 1980s|
|Fermanagh (GAA)||The Maguire County||Mediaeval lords (cf. Baron Maguire from the 17th Century)|
|Fermanagh (GAA)||The Lakeland County; the Lake County||Lough Erne dominates the topography|
|Fermanagh (GAA)||The Erne County; the Ernesiders||River Erne and Lough Erne|
|Galway (GAA)||The Tribesmen||Galway city is "the city of the tribes", those being fourteen historically prominent families|
|Galway (GAA)||The Herring Chokers||The fishing industry|
|Kerry (GAA)||The Kingdom||John Philpot Curran, MP, magistrate, and wit, said in the Irish House of Commons on 23 January 1787: "The low and contemptible state of your magistracy is the cause of much evil, particularly in the Kingdom of Kerry. I say Kingdom, for it seems absolutely not a part of the same country"|
|Kildare (GAA)||The Lilywhites||From the county colours|
|Kildare (GAA)||The Short Grass County||The open pastureland of the Curragh. Attested from at least 1897|
|Kildare (GAA)||The Thoroughbred County||Centre for breeding and training of racehorses. A marketing slogan, introduced in November 1999|
|Kilkenny (GAA)||The Cats||Kilkenny cats are proverbially tenacious fighters|
|Kilkenny (GAA)||The Marble County||Kilkenny city was "the Marble City" because of nearby marble quarrying, featured in its buildings and pavements|
|Kilkenny (GAA)||The Noresiders||River Nore|
|Laois (GAA)||The O'Moore County||Mediaeval lords (cf. Rory O'Moore in the 17th Century)|
|Laois (GAA)||"Poor and proud"||Disused.|
|Leitrim (GAA)||"Lovely Leitrim"||From the song "Lovely Leitrim", written in by Phil Fitzpatrick, an NYPD member from Mohill killed in 1947. It was a 1966 Number One single for Larry Cunningham. Another "Lovely Leitrim" was written in Chicago in 1956 by Jim Donnelly of Cloone and Tom Masterson of Carrigallen|
|Leitrim (GAA)||The Ridge County||Leitrim town's name is anglicised from the Irish Liath Druim, "grey ridge"; Carrick-on-Shannon is Cora Droma Ruisc - "the weir of the marshy ridge". The method of growing potatoes in ridges separated by ditches was especially common in Leitrim|
|Leitrim (GAA)||The Wild Rose County||The Wild Rose of Lough Gill, an 1883 historical romance by Patrick G. Smyth set largely in North Leitrim. Wild roses grow profusely in northwest Leitrim|
|Leitrim (GAA)||The O'Rourke County||Mediaeval lords of western Breifne|
|Limerick (GAA)||The Shannonsiders||River Shannon|
|Limerick (GAA)||The Treaty County||Limerick city is "the Treaty city" after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691|
|Londonderry or the GAA county of Derry||The Oak-leaf County||From the leaf on the county coat of arms and on the crest of Derry GAA; Derry is an anglicisation of Irish language Doire "oak-grove"|
|Longford (GAA)||The Slashers||Longford Slashers is a GAA club in Longford town. "Slasher" in the sense "man of valour" comes from Myles 'the Slasher' O'Reilly, killed defending the bridge of Finnea in 1644. "Slasher" became a pejorative for Longford people, notably former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, with a sense akin to culchie. Still more recently it has been reclaimed by the locals|
|Longford (GAA)||The O'Farrell County||Medieval O'Farrell family|
|Louth (GAA)||The Wee County||The smallest county in Ireland|
|Mayo (GAA)||The Yew County||The name Mayo is anglicised from the Irish Maigh Eo, "plain of the yew", the site of a mediaeval abbey|
|Mayo (GAA)||The Heather County||Heather is common in western Mayo|
|Mayo (GAA)||The Maritime County||The long Atlantic coastline|
|Mayo (GAA)||"Mayo, God help us!"||Mayo was the county worst affected by the Great Famine|
|Mayo (GAA)||"The Green above the Red"||From the county colours (green shoulders, red breast); themselves inspired by "The Green Above The Red", a rebel song to the tune of "Irish Molly O" with lyrics by Thomas Osborne Davis:
Full often when our fathers saw the Red above the Green,
|Meath (GAA)||The Royal county||The Hill of Tara, seat of the legendary High Kings of Ireland, is in Meath|
|Monaghan (GAA)||The Farney||Mediaeval territory of Farney, later the Barony of Farney in south County Monaghan. A 2004 article suggests the nickname dates from the prominence of Farneymen in the early years of Monaghan GAA.|
|Monaghan (GAA)||The Oriel County||Airgíalla, anglicised Oriel, a medieval kingdom with territory overlapping the modern county; north Monaghan people prefer the nickname "Oriel" to "Farney".|
|Monaghan (GAA)||The Drumlin County||Drumlin fields dominate the local topography|
|Offaly (GAA)||The Faithful County||In 1953, Andy Croke wrote, 'If ever Offaly earns a name like "Rebel" Cork or "Premier" Tipperary, I believe it will be the "Faithful" County, for nowhere else are hurlers and football more intent on sticking to their colours, which incidentally are green, white and gold.' Also attributed to Bob O'Keeffe, GAA president from 1935–38, possibly because the county is strong in both hurling and gaelic football. The motto on the county council's current coat of arms is Esto Fidelis "Be You Faithful"|
|Offaly (GAA)||The Biffos||Acronym for "Big ignorant fucker from Offaly" Attested in the early 1990s in the United States|
|Roscommon (GAA)||The Rossies|
|Roscommon (GAA)||The Sheepstealers||A common cause of transportation to Australia, the crime was common in Roscommon as it was easy to cross the River Shannon to raid Westmeath and Longford|
|Sligo (GAA)||The Yeats County||Childhood and spiritual home of William Butler Yeats|
|Sligo (GAA)||The Herring Pickers||The fishing industry|
|Sligo (GAA)||Land of Heart's Desire||Tourist branding from Yeats's 1894 play The Land of Heart's Desire, set in the barony of Kilmacowen.|
|Sligo (GAA)||The Zebras||From the county colours (black-and-white)|
|Sligo (GAA)||The Magpies||From the county colours (black-and-white)|
|Tipperary (GAA)||The Premier County||Origin uncertain. Attested from 1864 One suggested origin is the prosperous farmland of the Golden Vale. Another is that Tipperary was the seat of Butlers, Earls of Ormond|
|Tipperary (GAA)||The Stone Throwers||Tipperary agitators were unusually militant during the Land War of the 1870–90s. Stone Throwers Park in Tipperary Hill, Syracuse, New York commemorates an incident in the 1930s when a group of Irish Americans threw stones to prevent an upside-down traffic light being set with the "red above the green"|
|Tipperary (GAA)||Tipp||Clipping of Tipperary. The local radio station is Tipp FM. The Féile Festival, held in Semple Stadium in Thurles in the 1990s, was branded "the trip to Tipp"|
|Tyrone (GAA)||The O'Neill County||Mediaeval lords|
|Tyrone (GAA)||The Red Hand County, the Red Hands||The Red Hand of Ulster on the county's GAA crest, also on the arms of the O'Neills|
|Tyrone (GAA)||"Tyrone among the bushes"||From a poem by Strabane poet William Collins, who took part in the Fenian raids into Canada:
"O God be with the good old times when I was twenty-one
|Waterford (GAA)||The Déise, Decies||Mediaeval kingdom of the Déisi|
|Waterford (GAA)||The Suirsiders||River Suir|
|Waterford (GAA)||The Gentle County||The Gentle County: a Saga of the Decies People by Nicholas Whittle was published in 1959. He chose the title because "We in Waterford have never been too prone to blow our own trumpet"|
|Waterford (GAA)||The Crystal County||Waterford Crystal|
|Westmeath (GAA)||The Lake County||Site of many lakes, including Loughs Derravaragh, Ennell, Lene, Owel and Ree|
|Wexford (GAA)||The Model County||From its progressive farming methods and model farms The first agricultural school in Ireland was opened in Wexford in the 1850s; however, the nickname "model county" was established by 1847 "Exemplar Hiberniae" is the motto chosen for the county arms in 1987.|
|Wexford (GAA)||The Yellowbellies||Said to have been first applied to a Wexford hurling team raised by Sir Caesar Colclough, which won a challenge match in Cornwall in the reign of William III of England while wearing yellow sashes in tribute to William as Prince of Orange. The county colours (yellow with purple shoulders) reflect this pre-existing nickname|
|Wexford (GAA)||The Slaneysiders||River Slaney|
|Wexford (GAA)||The Strawberry Pickers||Due to its relatively warm dry climate, it grows more strawberries than most of Ireland|
|Wicklow (GAA)||The Garden of Ireland the Garden county||Possibly from the planted estates of Big Houses such as Powerscourt House; or from the county's scenery; or serving as a garden for the adjacent city of Dublin. Formerly "the garden of Ireland" has been applied to: the Blackwater valley between Mallow and Fermoy; Carlow town; Killough Hill near Cashel; eastern County Westmeath; and the province of Ulster|
|Wicklow (GAA)||The Goat Suckers||Feral goats roam the Wicklow Mountains|
Other inter-county GAA teams
Outside Ireland, the GAA is organised into regional bodies which have the same status as Irish counties, some of which compete in the same inter-county competitions.
|County||Nickname||Origins and notes|
|Hertfordshire (GAA)||Herts||Clipping of Hertfordshire|
|London GAA||The men from the county Hell||Boys from the County Hell, 1984 song by the Pogues|
|London GAA||The Exiles||Recruited from Irish emigrants "exiled" in Britain. The nickname is also used for New York GAA and London Irish rugby union club|
|New York GAA||The Exiles||Recruited from Irish emigrants "exiled" in New York. The nickname is also used for London GAA|
|South Down GAA||The non-Ardsmen||Players are selected from outside the Ards peninsula, the stronghold of Down hurling|
|Warwickshire (GAA)||Warks||Clipping of Warwickshire|
I must pause to explain to the unsophisticated Sassenach that, like Homer's heroes, most Irish towns and counties have their appropriate epithets, which no election speaker should be ignorant of. There is 'rebel' Cork, 'gallant' Tipperary, Limerick of the 'violated treaty', the 'urbs intacta' which is Waterford, and Galway the 'City of the Tribes' [...] Clare is the Banner County
— Alice L. Milligan
Limerick 'buttermilks' and Tipperary 'stone-throwers,' Wexford 'yellow-bellies,' Kilkenny 'wet-the-guns,' Ulster 'far-downs,' and County Mayo 'God-help-us' people, all meet in fraternal harmony with no cause of quarrel.
— P.G. Smyth
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- Rathoe Village Draft Local Area Plan, p.9 "The Fighting Cocks GAA club and field are located c.2km west of the village"
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- Dolan 2006, p.166
- Archer, Kenny (28 May 2008). "Hitting the Target - Ulster Council decision not to be taken light(ly)". Irish News. p. 58. "The footballers are 'the Mournemen' while the hurlers are 'the Ardsmen', even though there are many Down footballers from outside the Kingdom of Mourne and a few decent hurlers on 'the mainland'"
- e.g. "The Championship - Derry hurlers in fine form for title holders". Irish News. 26 July 2008. p. 73. "Derry were given little chance of beating the Mournemen but they produced a sparkling performance"
Campbell, John (7 June 2007). "Happy days for Down hurler Johnston". Belfast Telegraph. "Even before last Sunday's embarrassing mauling by Antrim, the Mournemen were already destined for the Christy Ring Cup"
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- "Down advance to Ulster hurling final". RTÉ. 29 May 2005. Retrieved 8 March 2009. "the Ardsmen run out nine-point winners"
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"The Jacks are back, The Jacks are back,
Let the railway end go barmy,
Hill 16, Has never seen,
The likes of Heffos army"
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- "Co. Kildare Cricket Club: Tour in the South". The Irish Times. 14 July 1897. p. 6 col. I. "The following players will represent the "short grass" county [etc.]"
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- Cassidy, Colman (16 November 1999). "Kildare exploits its 'horsey' image". The Irish Times. p. 16. Retrieved 13 February 2009. "Kildare has adopted the horse as its official logo by assuming a new identity as the "thoroughbred county". The brand was officially introduced yesterday by the Minster for Finance, Mr McCreevy [...] Kildare is home to the Irish Turf Club, the Curragh, Punchestown and Naas racecourse, the National Stud, the Irish Equestrian Centre, Weatherbys (keeper of the Stud Book) and Goffs — with more than 120 stud farms and more than 60 training establishments"
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- Böll, Heinrich (1998) . "Ch.4: Mayo — God help us". Irish Journal [Irisches Tagebuch]. translated by Leila Vennewitz. Northwestern University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-8101-6062-5. "Now the Irish have a strange custom: whenever the name of County Mayo is spoken (whether in praise, blame or noncommittally), as soon as the mere word Mayo is spoken, the Irish add: "God help us!""
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- "The "International Boxing Match"". The Nation. 8 October 1864. pp. 110, col.2. "it redounds infinitely to the credit of this force that such a debasing and inhuman spectacle of English customs and English sport was prevented from being enacted in this country, especially in Tipperary, the premier county of Ireland"
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- Dolan 2006, p.157
- Share 2001, p.179
- Meagher, Thomas Francis (1853). "Irish Confederation—National Union". Speeches on the Legislative Independence of Ireland. New York City: Redfield. pp. 95–7. Retrieved 11 February 2009. "14 January 1847, a meeting of Irish Peers, Commoners, and landed proprictors, of all creeds and partics, convened by the requisition alluded to, took place in the Rotunda, Dublin. [...] Mr. Charles A. Walker, D.L, Co. Wexford, regretted to state, that Wexford, "which hitherto had been the 'model county' of Ireland, was in similar destitution [...]""
- Wexford County Council (5 October 1987). "Report of General Purposes Committee Meeting". Wexford county archives. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
and Creedon, William P. (1999). Exemplar Hiberniae: 100 Years of Local Government in County Wexford. Institute of Public Administration. ISBN 9781902448138.
- Hall, Samuel Carter; Anna Maria Hall (1846). "Wexford". Ireland: its scenery, character, &c. London: Jeremiah Howe. p. Vol II, p.151, footnote. "Out of compliment to William, the Irish were provided with yellow sashes, or handkerchiefs, for their waists, from which circumstance Wexford men are still often called "yellow bellies.""
- Share 2001, p.141
- Dolan 2006, p.103
- Coyne, J. Stirling; N.P. Willis, etc. (c. 1841). "Vol. I, Chap. VII". The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland. "The county of Wicklow has justly been termed "The Garden of Ireland," for nowhere else is to be found assembled such a variety of natural beauties, heightened and improved by the hand of art"
- Croker, Thomas Crofton (1824). "VII: The River Blackwater". Researches in the South of Ireland: Illustrative of the Scenery, Architectural Remains, and the Manners and Superstitions of the Peasantry. London: John Murray. p. 130. "[...] the Blackwater between Mallow and Fermoy, a tract dignified by the name of the garden of Ireland [...]"
- Ebenezer Cobham Brewer (1898). Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Philadelphia: bartleby.com. ISBN 1-58734-094-1. "Garden of Ireland Carlow"
- Somerville, Alexander (1852). "Letters from Ireland during the Famine of 1847: No III: Kilkenny, 27th January". The Whistler at the Plough ... with Letters from Ireland. Manchester: James Ainsworth. p. 443. "The country around this town [sc. Carlow] is called the garden of Ireland: it well deserves the name. There are about 500 acres of onions and parsnips grown annually [...]"
- Croker, Thomas Crofton (1828). "Scath-A-Legaune". Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (2nd ed.). London: John Murray. p. 258. "From the Cashel road the hill of Killough is pointed out to the traveller as Gardeen a Herin, the garden of Ireland, in consequence of a belief that it is a national natural botanic establishment, and that every plant which grows in Ireland is to be found upon it."
- Lewis, Samuel (1837). "Westmeath (County of)". A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. London: S. Lewis & Co. Retrieved 26 February 2008. "Throughout the eastern part of the county the soil is a heavy loam from seven to twelve inches (305 mm) deep, resting on a yellow till: the land here is chiefly under pasture and feeds the fattest bullocks; from its great fertility it has been called the "garden of Ireland;""
- The Earl of Derby, speaking in the House of Lords in opposition to the Irish Church Act 1869; quoted in Saintsbury, George (1892). The Earl of Derby. The Prime Ministers of Queen Victoria. ed. Stuart J. Reid. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 192. "These are the men who, united by you to settle in Ireland, converted Ulster from a barren waste into a thriving province; and who, by their energy, their industry, and their steady conduct, have made the province of Ulster not merely the 'garden of Ireland' but the most gratifying and wonderful contrast to those parts of Ireland in which the Protestant religion does not prevail"
- "Gearing up for the championship". Wicklow People. 27 March 2008. Retrieved 19 May 2008. "I knew a man once who used to say the Dublin would win nothing without a Wicklow man on the team, a bit of an exaggeration perhaps but if you look through the record books you will find quite a few 'goat-suckers' on Dublin teams in the past"
- Cummiskey, Gavin (17 May 2007). "Down, Dublin teams to compete in Rackard". The Irish Times. p. Sport, p.24. Retrieved 8 March 2009. "The GAA confirmed yesterday that second teams from Down and Dublin would compete in the Nicky Rackard Cup in 2008 [...] non-Ards (Down) and Fingal (Dublin) sides will be entered "on a basis determined by the Central Competitions Control Committee""
- "Hertfordshire County Board". Retrieved 7 May 2008.
- Fitzpatrick, Matt (9 February 2009). "Non-Ardsmen have ’keeper to thank". Irish News. Retrieved 8 March 2009.