| 27th May 2021

GAA County Nicknames and the Stories Behind Them

Have you ever wondered where your county earned its GAA nickname? 

From The Rebels in Cork to The Mournemen in Down, every county has established a moniker to set itself apart from its rivals and help local fans identify themselves with their beloved hurling or football team.

GAA teams at a glance

Counties Nicknames Colours
Antrim The Saffron County,  Saffron & white
Armagh The Orchard County Orange & white
Carlow The Dolmen County, The Barrowsiders Green, red & yellow
Cavan The Breffni County Blue & white
Clare The Banner County Yellow & blue
Cork The Rebels, The Leesiders Red & white
Derry Oak Leaf County Red & white
Donegal The Tír Conaill Men, The Herring Gutters Green & gold
Down The Mournemen, The Ardsmen Red & black
Dublin The Dubs, The Boys in Blue, The Jackeens, The Liffeysiders, The Metropolitans Dark blue & light blue
Fermanagh The Ernesiders Green & white
Galway The Tribesmen, The Herring Chokers Maroon & white
Kerry The Kingdom Green & yellow
Kildare The Lilywhites White
Kilkenny The Cats, The Stripey Men, The Noresiders, The Marble City Black & amber
Laois The O’Moore County Blue & white
Leitrim The Wild Rose County Green & gold
Limerick The Treaty Men, The Shannonsiders Green & white
Longford The Slashers Blue & gold
Louth The Wee County Red & white
Mayo The Westerners Green & red
Meath The Royals Green & gold
Monaghan The Farney County,  White & blue
Offaly The Faithful County Green, white & gold
Roscommon The Rossies Blue & yellow
Sligo The Yeats Men, The Herring Pickers, The Zebras, The Magpies Black & white
Tipperary The Premier County, The Stone Throwers Blue & yellow
Tyrone The Red Hands White & red
Waterford The Deise Blue & white
Westmeath The Lake County Maroon & white
Wexford The Yellowbellies Purple & gold
Wicklow The Garden County, The Goat Suckers Blue & yellow

The origins of Ireland’s GAA nicknames explained

From friendly nicknames adopted by proud residents, to the more insulting suggestions hurled (excuse the pun) by their bitter rivals, there’s a whole range of options when it comes to GAA team nicknames.

Many of the nicknames in the table above have deep roots in Irish history (as far back as the thirteenth century, even!) while others simply refer either to the team colours or their geographic location. 

Below, we’ve shed some light on the backstories sheds some light on the reasons behind these creative (and in some cases not-so-original) county nicknames.

Leinster GAA counties

1. Carlow: “The Dolmen County” 

gaa county nicknames

Carlow is nicknamed this for good reason: Some of Europe’s most impressive ancient burial chambers, or dolmens (meaning “table of stone”), stand in the green fields of picturesque Cavan. 

Brownshill Dolmen, just outside of Carlow town, and Haroldstown Dolmen, near Tullow, are two of Ireland’s most iconic archeological sites and are visited by thousands of tourists each year. 

The Carlow GAA team are also sometimes referred to as The Barrowsiders, in a nod to the River Barrow. Another wildcard nickname for Carlow’s GAA team are The Scallion Eaters, in reference to the fact that most of the province’s onions were grown in Carlow in the nineteenth century. 

2. Dublin: “The Dubs”

Okay, so it’s not exactly difficult to see how this nickname came to life. But what you might not know is that The Dubs are an eminently nickname-able crowd. Other common Dublin GAA monikers include: 

  • The Jackeens (this one can be construed as a bit of an insult, so chant it pitchside at your own peril!
  • The Boys in Blue
  • The Liffeysiders
  • The Metropolitans

3. Kildare: “The Lilywhites”

While Kildare is a place of green pastures, players from Kilkenny are commonly known as The Lilywhites (a straightforward nod to their iconic all-white kit). 

4. Kilkenny: “The Cats”

The Kilkenny Cats are all-time record-holders for the most All-Ireland Hurling titles, having lifted the Liam McCarthy Cup on a whopping 36 occasions! 

The origin of this nickname is not entirely clear, but it’s believed to have originated from a famous Irish limerick about two Kilkenny cats that fought to the death by eating each other up until only their tails were left behind. An apt nickname for the tenacious, fierce Kilkenny hurling team! 

Other notable Kilkenny GAA team nicknames include:

  • The Stripey Men 
  • The Noresiders
  • The Marble City

5. Laois: “The O’Moore County”

This hidden corner of Ireland is often overlooked, not least because they’ve only had one All-Ireland win (and that was over a century ago). 

Laois’s nickname offers a view into its rich ancient past: The O’Moores were a famous Laois family whose ruined fortress can still be seen at Dunamase Castle.

6. Longford: “The Slashers”

While Longford’s nickname is The O’Farrell County, Longford’s GAA team’s nickname has a bit of a bloody past. The Slashers nickname is an homage to Irish folk hero Myles Slasher O’Reilly, who was killed while defending Finea bridge against English and Scottish forces in 1646. 

7. Louth: “The Wee County”

As the smallest county in Ireland, Louth’s nickname is fairly self explanatory (and rather adorable!) 

8. Meath: “The Royals”

This particular GAA team nickname pays tribute to Meath’s fascinating royal heritage. 

One of the five provinces of ancient Ireland, Meath has been at the centre of Irish politics and history for centuries. Home to the Hill of Tara, the ceremonial capital of the high kings of Ireland, Meath occupies a central place at the heart of Irish history, legend and folklore. 

9. Offaly: “The Faithful County”

Formerly known as King’s County, Offaly’s latest nickname is The Faithful County, due primarily to the fact that the word appears on its crest. 

10. Westmeath: “The Lake County”

As its nickname suggests, lakes are everywhere in Westmeath. Lough Derravaragh, Lough Ennell, Lough Lene, Lough Owel and Lough Ree all offer good fishing for anglers and great opportunities for hikers, not to mention an endless array of photo ops.

11. Wexford: “The Yellowbellies”

While sometimes nicknamed The Slaneysiders (a clear reference to the River Slaney, which cuts through the middle of the county), the Wexford GAA team are more commonly known as The Yellowbellies

This is in honour of the Wexford hurling team that won a match in Cornwall in the seventeenth century while wearing yellow sashes for William of Orange. This history is also reflected in the traditional yellow stripe the players wear across their purple jerseys.

12. Wicklow: “The Garden County”

Home to a wild expanse of coastline, parkland, lush gardens and mountains (through which runs Ireland’s most popular walking trail), Wicklow is well deserving of The Garden County moniker. 

A more obscure (and far less flattering) nickname bestowed on the Wicklow GAA players is The Goat Suckers, which we’re led to believe is derived from the wild goats that are known to roam the Wicklow Mountains. 

Recommended reading: 

Munster GAA counties

gaa county colours

13. Clare: “The Banner County”

“Up the ban!” is every die-hard Clare hurling fan’s battlecry. 

But where does this saying come from? Clare’s nickname has stuck over the years due to uts residents’ long-standing political custom of carrying banners – a tradition which stretches back all the way to the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.  

14. Cork: “The Rebels”

Also known as The Leesiders (a reference to the River Lee), Cork’s GAA team nickname can be traced all the way back to the Tudor uprisings and the city’s support of Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the English throne, in 1491. 

Cork’s appetite for rebellion (and its consequent nickname, The Rebel County) was further cemented over the ensuing centuries, culminating in their intense struggle against British rule during the War of Independence.  

15. Kerry: “The Kingdom”

A nickname with some serious notions, The Kingdom goes all the way back to the first century, after the original tribe that inhabited Kerry under the kingship of Queen Meabh’s son, Ciar.

16. Limerick: “The Treaty Men” 

While Limerick GAA supporters are occasionally referred to as The Shannonsiders (another river-related nickname!) the team’s most well-known moniker is a reference to the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, which marked the end of the Siege of Limerick. 

17. Tipperary: “The Premier County”

Although Tipperary natives are also occasionally known as Stone Throwers, it’s most widely known as The Premier County

While the origin of Tipperary’s nickname is undocumented, some have speculated it’s a nod either to the farmland of the Golden Vale or to the Butlers, the Earls of Ormond, whose ancestral seat was good ol’ Tipp. 

18. Waterford: “The Déise”

Waterford is known locally as the The Déise due to the tribe of native Gaelic people, the Déisi, who settled here from the southern part of the county from the fourth to the eighth century. 

Waterford is also known as the Crystal County in honour of Waterford Crystal, which was established in Waterford in the eighteenth century. Waterford GAA supporters are often called The Suirsiders, after the River Suir.

Connacht GAA counties

gaa county team nicknames

19. Galway: “The Tribesmen”

Galway bears its nickname The City of Tribes from the fourteen tribes who led the city during the Hiberno-Norman period. Galway GAA fans are either known as The Tribesmen or, less commonly, The Herring Chokers (a reference to Galway’s thriving fishing industry). 

20. Leitrim: “The Wild Rose County”

While Leitrim is a prime flower-spotting destination in Ireland (wild roses bloom throughout northwest Leitrim), Leitrim’s nickname actually has its root in a 19th Century historical romance novel called The Wild Rose of Lough Gill.

21. Mayo: “The Westerners”

Although Mayo, located on the west coast of Ireland, has collected a few nicknames over the years (including The Maritime County, The Yew County and The Heather County), the Mayo GAA team are usually referred to as simply as The Westerners.     

22. Roscommon: “The Rossies”

An easy one to remember… 

23. Sligo: “The Yeats Men”

Sligo was where the poet Willam Butler Yeats spent his childhood summers. Its scenic locations fill his early poetry and for this very reason Sligo is now called Yeats County

Sligo is also a hotspot for GAA nicknames, including:

  • The Herring Pickers (Sligo is home to a thriving fishing industry)
  • The Zebras (a reference to their black-and-white striped kit, zebras are, sadly, not indigenous to Sligo!)
  • The Magpies (also derived from their team colours)

Ulster GAA counties (Republic of Ireland)

gaa nicknames24. Cavan: “The Breffni County”

Cavan is also known as The Lake County (you’ve got some competition there, Westmeath!) But its primary nickname is due to the fact that what is now known as Cavan was once the seat of the medieval kingdom of East Breffni in the later Middle Ages.

25. Donegal: “The Tír Conaill Men”

While there are a whole plethora of alternative nicknames for Donegal, including The Hills, The Forgotten County and The O’Donnell County, its most iconic is undoubtedly Tyrconnell, after the medieval kingdom of the same name. 

Fun fact: Donegal are also the proud owners of yet another herring-related nickname – The Herring Gutters!

26. Monaghan: “The Farney County”

While there are a few Monaghan nicknames we could spotlight here (The Oriel County and The Drumlin County spring to mind) it’s typically better known as The Farney County after a barony of the same name that comprised about a fifth of the county. 

Ulster GAA counties (Northern Ireland)

27. Antrim: “The Saffron County”

Antrim’s nickname is derived from its team colours – no extra points for originality here!

28. Armagh: “The Orchard County”

Armagh is renowned for its orchards, so this particular nickname was bound to catch on eventually.

29. Derry: “Oak Leaf County”

Derry gets its nickname from the oak leaf that features prominently on its county coat of arms as well as on the Derry GAA team’s crest. 

30. Down: “The Mournemen”

The Down hurling team are affectionately called either The Mournemen or The Ardsmen, depending on the day that’s in it. 

31. Fermanagh: “The Ernesiders”

Again, not the most original nickname of the lot – Fermanagh is known as The Erne County after the River Erne, which begins its journey in Cavan and meets the sea at Donegal Bay west of Ballyshannon.

32. Tyrone: “The Red Hands”

Tyrone’s nickname is, appropriately enough, derived from the Red Hand of Ulster that features on their GAA crest. 

So there you have it: Some of the famous monikers that are applied to Ireland’s counties, along with their origins.