List of Irish county nicknames

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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.[1][2] 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"[3] — while some counties have separate nicknames for the county and people: for example Wexford is often called the Model county,[3] and Wexford people are called "yellowbellies".[3] 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,[2][3] Fermanagh,[4] and Cavan[5] have each been called "the Lake county".

List[edit]

County (GAA link) Nickname Origins and notes
Antrim (GAA) The Glensmen[2][3][6] From the Glens of Antrim[2]
Antrim (GAA) The Saffrons[3] From the county colours
Armagh (GAA) The Orchard County[2][3][7] The rich fruit growing country to the north-east of the city of Armagh is known as the "Orchard of Ireland".[2][8] (The local electoral district in that part of Armagh is called "The Orchard".)[9])
Armagh (GAA) The Cathedral County[2][3][10] The Primates of All Ireland's seats (both Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic) are in the city of Armagh[2]
Carlow (GAA) The Dolmen County[3] Brownshill Dolmen is near Carlow town[2]
Carlow (GAA) The Barrowsiders[11] River Barrow[2]
Carlow (GAA) The Fighting Cocks[3] Carlow was famous for cock fighting in the early nineteenth century.[12] "The Fighting Cocks" is also a crossroads on the N80 road[13] which names a district between Tullow and Nurney[14] and its GAA club[15]
Carlow (GAA) The Scallion Eaters[3] In the early nineteenth century, most of the onions sold in Leinster were grown near Carlow town[16]
Cavan (GAA) The Breffni[2][3][17] Mediaeval Kingdom of Breifne, centred on Cavan[2]
Cavan (GAA) The Lake County[5] Lakes include Loughs Gowna, Oughter, Ramor, and Sheelin
Clare (GAA) The Banner County[2][3][18][19] From the banners at monster meetings supporting Catholic Emancipation leader Daniel O'Connell's by-election campaign in the constituency of Clare in 1828[1][2]
Cork (GAA) The Rebel County[3][18][20][21] 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)[20][22]
Cork (GAA) The Leesiders[23] River Lee
Cork (GAA) The Donkey Aters (Eaters)[2] Applied in particular to the vicinity of Skibbereen in West Cork, where people resorted to eating donkeys during the Great Famine[24]
Derry (the GAA county) or Londonderry The Oak-leaf County[2][3][25] 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"[2]
Donegal (GAA) The Hills[3] The Derryveagh Mountains and Bluestack Mountains are called The Hills of Donegal in many folk songs
Donegal (GAA) Tír Chonaill or Tyrconnell[3] 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[2][3][25] Mediaeval lords[2]
Donegal (GAA) The Herring Gutters[2][3] The fishing industry is important, especially in Killybegs[2]
Donegal (GAA) The Forgotten County[2] Donegal is almost cut off from the rest of the Republic of Ireland by Northern Ireland[2]
Down (GAA) The Mourne County;[3] The Mournemen[26] Mourne Mountains. In GAA contexts, "Mournemen" is often applied specifically to the football rather than the hurling team;[26] though not always[27]
Down (GAA) The Ardsmen[26][28][29] Applied specifically to the hurling team.[26] From the Ards peninsula, stronghold of hurling in the county[26]
Dublin (GAA) The Dubs[30] Clipped form of "Dubliners"
Dublin (GAA) The Liffeysiders[3] River Liffey
Dublin (GAA) The Jackeens[3] Pejorative term for Dubliners; contrasted with culchies
Dublin (GAA) The Jacks[31][32][33] 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[2][3] Mediaeval lords (cf. Baron Maguire from the 17th Century)[2]
Fermanagh (GAA) The Lakeland County;[2][3] the Lake County[4][34] Lough Erne dominates the topography[2]
Fermanagh (GAA) The Erne County;[2] the Ernesiders[35] River Erne and Lough Erne[2]
Galway (GAA) The Tribesmen[2][3] Galway city is "the city of the tribes", those being fourteen historically prominent families
Galway (GAA) The Herring Chokers[2] The fishing industry[2]
Kerry (GAA) The Kingdom[3] 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"[36]
Kildare (GAA) The Lilywhites[2][3][37] From the county colours[2][37]
Kildare (GAA) The Short Grass County[2][3][38] The open pastureland of the Curragh. Attested from at least 1897[39]
Kildare (GAA) The Thoroughbred County[2][3][40][41] Centre for breeding and training of racehorses. A marketing slogan, introduced in November 1999[40][41]
Kilkenny (GAA) The Cats[3][42] Kilkenny cats are proverbially tenacious fighters[42]
Kilkenny (GAA) The Marble County[2][3] Kilkenny city was "the Marble City" because of nearby marble quarrying,[1] featured in its buildings and pavements[2]
Kilkenny (GAA) The Noresiders[3] River Nore
Kilkenny (GAA) Wet-the-guns[43]
Laois (GAA) The O'Moore County[3][44] Mediaeval lords (cf. Rory O'Moore in the 17th Century)
Laois (GAA) "Poor and proud"[45][46] Disused.[45]
Leitrim (GAA) "Lovely Leitrim"[47][48] From the song "Lovely Leitrim", written in by Phil Fitzpatrick, an NYPD member from Mohill killed in 1947.[49] It was a 1966 Number One single for Larry Cunningham.[50] Another "Lovely Leitrim" was written in Chicago in 1956 by Jim Donnelly of Cloone and Tom Masterson of Carrigallen[51]
Leitrim (GAA) The Ridge County[2][3][52] 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[2]
Leitrim (GAA) The Wild Rose County[2][3] The Wild Rose of Lough Gill, an 1883 historical romance by Patrick G. Smyth set largely in North Leitrim.[1] Wild roses grow profusely in northwest Leitrim[2]
Leitrim (GAA) The O'Rourke County[3] Mediaeval lords of western Breifne
Limerick (GAA) The Shannonsiders[3][53] River Shannon
Limerick (GAA) The Treaty County[3] Limerick city is "the Treaty city" after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691
Limerick (GAA) buttermilks[43]
Londonderry or the GAA county of Derry The Oak-leaf County[2][3][25] 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"[2]
Longford (GAA) The Slashers[3] 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.[1][54] "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[25] Medieval O'Farrell family
Louth (GAA) The Wee County[3] The smallest county in Ireland
Mayo (GAA) The Yew County[55][56] The name Mayo is anglicised from the Irish Maigh Eo, "plain of the yew", the site of a mediaeval abbey[55]
Mayo (GAA) The Heather County[2][3] Heather is common in western Mayo[2]
Mayo (GAA) The Maritime County[3] The long Atlantic coastline[2]
Mayo (GAA) "Mayo, God help us!"[43][57] Mayo was the county worst affected by the Great Famine[58]
Mayo (GAA) "The Green above the Red"[3] 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:[59]

Full often when our fathers saw the Red above the Green,
They rose in rude but fierce array, with sabre, pike and skian,
And over many a noble town, and many a field of dead,
They proudly set the Irish Green above the English Red

Meath (GAA) The Royal county[3][60][61] The Hill of Tara, seat of the legendary High Kings of Ireland, is in Meath[60]
Monaghan (GAA) The Farney[2][3][62] Mediaeval territory of Farney, later the Barony of Farney in south County Monaghan.[2] A 2004 article suggests the nickname dates from the prominence of Farneymen in the early years of Monaghan GAA.[63]
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".[63][64]
Monaghan (GAA) The Drumlin County[2][3] Drumlin fields dominate the local topography[2]
Offaly (GAA) The Faithful County[3][19] 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.'[65] Also attributed to Bob O'Keeffe, GAA president from 1935–38,[19][66] possibly because the county is strong in both hurling and gaelic football.[1][19] The motto on the county council's current coat of arms is Esto Fidelis "Be You Faithful"[67]
Offaly (GAA) The Biffos Acronym for "Big ignorant fucker from Offaly"[68] Attested in the early 1990s in the United States[69][70]
Roscommon (GAA) The Rossies[3]
Roscommon (GAA) The Sheepstealers[3][71] 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[2]
Sligo (GAA) The Yeats County[2][3] Childhood and spiritual home of William Butler Yeats[2]
Sligo (GAA) The Herring Pickers[2][3] The fishing industry[2]
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.[72]
Sligo (GAA) The Zebras[3] From the county colours (black-and-white)
Sligo (GAA) The Magpies[3] From the county colours (black-and-white)
Tipperary (GAA) The Premier County[2][3][73][74] Origin uncertain.[74] Attested from 1864[75] One suggested origin is the prosperous farmland of the Golden Vale.[1] Another is that Tipperary was the seat of Butlers, Earls of Ormond[73]
Tipperary (GAA) The Stone Throwers[2][43][76] Tipperary agitators were unusually militant during the Land War of the 1870–90s.[77] 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"[78]
Tipperary (GAA) Tipp Clipping of Tipperary. The local radio station is Tipp FM.[79] The Féile Festival, held in Semple Stadium in Thurles in the 1990s, was branded "the trip to Tipp"[80]
Tyrone (GAA) The O'Neill County[2][3][44] Mediaeval lords[2]
Tyrone (GAA) The Red Hand County,[2][3] the Red Hands[81][82] The Red Hand of Ulster on the county's GAA crest, also on the arms of the O'Neills[1][2]
Tyrone (GAA) "Tyrone among the bushes"[2] 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
In Tyrone among the bushes, where the Finn and Mourne run
When my heart was gay and merry, recked then not of care or toil
Blithesome as the bells of Derry ringing o’er the sunny Foyle"

Waterford (GAA) The Déise,[2][3][83] Decies[84] Mediaeval kingdom of the Déisi[2]
Waterford (GAA) The Suirsiders[3] River Suir
Waterford (GAA) The Gentle County[83][85] The Gentle County: a Saga of the Decies People by Nicholas Whittle was published in 1959.[86] He chose the title because "We in Waterford have never been too prone to blow our own trumpet"[87]
Waterford (GAA) The Crystal County[2][3] Waterford Crystal[2]
Westmeath (GAA) The Lake County[2][3][88] Site of many lakes, including Loughs Derravaragh, Ennell, Lene, Owel and Ree[2]
Wexford (GAA) The Model County[2][3][89] From its progressive farming methods and model farms[1][2] The first agricultural school in Ireland was opened in Wexford in the 1850s;[90] however, the nickname "model county" was established by 1847[91] "Exemplar Hiberniae" is the motto chosen for the county arms in 1987.[92]
Wexford (GAA) The Yellowbellies[3][43] 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.[93] The county colours (yellow with purple shoulders) reflect this pre-existing nickname
Wexford (GAA) The Slaneysiders[11] River Slaney
Wexford (GAA) The Strawberry Pickers[2] Due to its relatively warm dry climate, it grows more strawberries than most of Ireland[2]
Wicklow (GAA) The Garden of Ireland[2][94] the Garden county[3][94][95] Possibly from the planted estates of Big Houses such as Powerscourt House;[1] or from the county's scenery;[96] 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;[97] Carlow town;[94][98][99] Killough Hill near Cashel;[100] eastern County Westmeath;[101] and the province of Ulster[102]
Wicklow (GAA) The Goat Suckers[2][103] Feral goats roam the Wicklow Mountains[2]

Other inter-county GAA teams[edit]

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.

In 2008, the main Dublin and Down hurling teams were supplemented with second teams competing in the Nicky Rackard Cup, respectively called Fingal and South Down.[104]

County Nickname Origins and notes
Hertfordshire (GAA) Herts Clipping of Hertfordshire[105]
London GAA The men from the county Hell[3] 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[106] Players are selected from outside the Ards peninsula, the stronghold of Down hurling[104]
Warwickshire (GAA) Warks Clipping of Warwickshire[105]

Quotations[edit]

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[18]

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[43]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx Hughes, Martin; Gerry Coughlan (March 2007). "Regional variations: County nicknames". Irish Language and Culture. Lonely Planet. pp. 195–202. ISBN 1-74059-577-7. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm Corry, Eoghan (2005). The GAA book of lists. Dublin: Hodder Headline Ireland. pp. 182–3. ISBN 0-340-89695-7. 
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  7. ^ Dolan 2006, p.169
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  13. ^ "S.I. No. 164/1977 — Local Government (Roads and Motorways) Act, 1974 (Declaration of National Roads) Order, 1977". 1 June 1977. Retrieved 26 February 2008. "N 80 [...] Fighting Cocks' Cross Roads [...]" 
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  15. ^ 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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  27. ^ 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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       The likes of Heffos army"
     
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