is just a part of Oriel
we label Monaghan the Farney County or the Oriel County?
Seamus McCluskey has a look at the origin of both names.
circles most Irish counties have a nick-name which is regularly
used by their followers at games, and even more often by
the media in the lead up and the reporting of
these same games, if we are to go by the outpourings from
the legions of Sports Scribes over the past
number of years.
Here in Ulster, Fermanagh teams are regularly called the
Erne-siders, Cavan - the Breifne men, Antrim - the
Glensmen, Armagh - the men from the Orchard county, Tyrone
- the ONeill county, etc. etc., while outside the
province we hear repeatedly of the Wee County,
the Model County, the Premier County, the Faithful County,
the Tribesmen, the Decies, the Banner, Royal Meath, and
a host of others. However, when it comes to Monaghan we
have a clash of names, with Farney and Oriel
the two most frequently used.
It is remarkable, however, that just one of these is one-hundred-per-cent
correct, as Farney comprises just one-fifth
of the present county of Monaghan, while Oriel
covers the entire county, and was originally the centre
of a once much larger kingdom in mid-Ulster. We always like
to think of ourselves as Ulstermen, and why shouldnt
we, as this is the heart of Ulster and has always contributed
to the political and sporting history of this northern province.
Kings of Oriel even had their headquarters in Donaghmoyne,
which is in Farney, so Farney-folk should have
little difficulty in using Oriel in preference
Prior to the coming of the English, the present Co. Monaghan
was divided into four or five Tuatha. These
were small kingdoms, and there were approximately two hundred
of them in all throughout the country. The Monaghan tautha
had their own rulers, with four of them being governed by
the great McMahon clan,while the fifth and smallest of the
Tuatha lay to the north of the county, was called
Triucha Chead a Chladaigh, and contained
the present parishes of Donagh and Errigal Truagh. This
latter tuath was controlled by the mighty MacKenna
clan, who often found themselves at war with the ONeills
on their northern flank or against the stronger McMahons
on their southern flank. They were also often allies of
one of these two great Ulster families in their struggle
with the other. Even more often they found themselves at
logger heads with the marauding foreigners, who spoke a
different language and professed a different religion.
The late Fr. Peadar Livingstone of Castleblayney, one of
Co. Monaghans finest historians writing in his truly
magnificent and comprehensive history The Monaghan
Story (published by the Clogher historical Society
in Enniskillen in 1980), wrote:-
As the sixteenth century opened, it could be argued
that there were not one but three MacMahon kingdoms in Monaghan.
This situation persisted throughout the century. The leaders
of the three branches - Monaghan, Dartrey and Farney - were
virtually independent of one another. A MacMahon chieftain
continued to be elected throughout the century, but it is
doubtful if the title was anything more than an honour.
When the country was finally conquered and the Irish had
submitted to English rule, the victors imposed their authority
on the entire province. They divided the country up into
shire land, which they found more convenient
to control, and thus emerged the counties which we know
today, and which, by a strange twist, were quickly adopted
by the native Irish, and which they now support so vigorously
in every aspect of political and sporting life. The five
tuatha of Monaghan became the five baronies
- Farney in the extreme south, Dartrey in the west, Cremorne
in the east, Monaghan in the north-centre, and Truagh in
the extreme North. That is how it still exists, so it can
be seen that the term Farney covers only the
extreme south of the county, containing the current Carrickmacross,
Inniskeen, Killanny, Donaghmoyne, Toome, Magheracloone and
Corduff GAA clubs.
Oriel, on the other hand, was a much larger and older kingdom,
set up originally when the ancient province of Ulster was
invaded and then divided up into three parts by the Three
Collas. It first contained most of the present county
of Monaghan survived as its main part and hard core
right down through the ages. Fr. Livingstone wrote in his
This Oriel (i.e. McMahon territory) was never to become
as extensive as the kingdom had been under the OCarrolls.
It did not include Louth and its sway seldom reached far
into either Fermanagh or Tyrone.
Thus, Monaghan remained Oriel, and never became
part of any other major land division.
The entire county, as is currently constituted, probably
should never even have been called Monaghan
in the first place, and would have been much more correctly
named Oriel. Even the ascendancy classes recognised
this fact - Seymour Leslie in the history of the Leslies
of Glaslough, titled his book Glaslough in Oriel.
It is not difficult then to see that this county of ours
is really Oriel, and that we are all Oriel-men
The question will then surely be asked as to why Farney
is so often used when referring to Co. Monaghan, particularly
in sporting circles. The answer is quite simple and goes
back to the very foundation of the GAA within the county.
When the Central Council first gave instructions for each
county to form its own County Board, it was the Gaels of
the deep-South of the county who responded so magnificently.
On the 27th December 1887, their first ever meeting took
place in the then ONeills Hotel on Main Street
in Carrickmacross and a County Board was duly formed. It
was remarkable, however, that there was not a single representative
whatsoever present from either mid-Monaghan or north-Monaghan,
and the entire proceedings were conducted by representatives
from the existing clubs in the barony of Farney.
This is easily gleaned from the first officer-board
set up on that auspicious occasion, which was as follows:-
Rev. W. McKenna of Carrickmacross was elected as President
Rev. J. McCarney, Donaghmoyne, was elected as Vice-President.
P. Lee, Carrickmacross, was elected as Chairman (according
to the Dundalk Democrat he was elected as Treasurer,
but this was incorrect).
Owen Cahill, Carrickmacross, was elected as Secretary.
James Daly, ex-MP, was elected as Treasurer (this is verified
in the Louth Annual of 1905 - 06)
A committee was also elected and this consisted of:-
Mr. Patrick Finnegan, Drummond; Mr. P. OToal, Inniskeen;
Mr. B. Lambe, Carrickmacross; Mr. P. Duffy, Carrickmacross;
Mr. H. Fox, Carrickmacross; Mr. P. Clarke, Donaghmoyne;
Mr. J. McGrodir, Kilmurry; and Mr. T. Fealey, Donaghmoyne.
Whether or not the mid and northern sections of the county
were deliberately omitted from the gathering
is open to conjecture, but a County Championship was hastily
agreed upon, and initially only included teams from the
extreme South (or Farney) end of the county. This was obviously
later over-ruled by the governing Central Council as a northern
presence was later evident when a team from Clones (the
Red Hands) contested the first County Final (1888), but
these lost to the Inniskeen Grattans, who, incidentally,
went on to win the first ever Ulster Championship.
The fact that the first County Board and the first ever
County Champions came from Farney was obviously the reason
why our representatives were called the Farney men,
and the name apparently stuck. It was however, very much
pushed by a certain journalist (who died in
the early forties) in one of the Dublin daily newspapers,
as his ancestors had originated in Farney, and he was particularly
proud of his south-Monaghan roots. This was then the main
reason why successive journalists took up the term and repeated
it regularly when it came to reporting on a Monaghan game.
Today, the county is still very often referred to as Farney
by the sports media of Dublin and Belfast (the latter journalists
in particular insist on using the term), but these people
are not natives of Monaghan, do not live here, and know
very little of our history. It has become very noticeable
in recent times, however, that the local media, both radio
and print, are reverting to the older and more correct term
Oriel. These are journalists who live here,
and who have a much greater knowledge of Monaghans
proud history which, in turn, gives them the greater desire
to be more correct when referring to our county teams.
In a way, when the term Farney is used, it is
being a bit unfair to the players from the clubs of the
other four areas - Cremorne, Dartrey, Monaghan and Truagh
- who strive so hard to earn recognition for themselves
by being selected on our county teams, and these comprise
the vast majority of clubs (23) within the county. It is
particularly unfair to previous great players from the Castleblaney,
Scotstown, Ballybay and Clontibret clubs, who have backboned
our county teams down through the years, and who were never
Farney men. However, that is not to say that
Farney is incorrect, it simply means that Oriel
is the more correct.
However, as Monaghan people, we really dont mind what
outsiders call us, or even what our own supporters call
us, just as long as they keep supporting our county teams
- and just as long as those same county teams can get onto
a winning trail!!!!
Taken from Monaghan's Match