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"An Táin Bó Cuailnge" or the "Cattle Raid of Cooley" known locally as "The Táin" and "The Brown Bull of Cooley" is the most famous ancient Irish saga and is Europe’s oldest recorded  vernacular tale said to date back to the 7th Century.

In this ancient saga Queen Maeve of Connaught and her husband Ailill decide one night to compare possessions. After much discussion, it became evident that Ailill possessed something of which Maeve could not equal – the great white bull ‘Finnbeannach’. At that time the head of the household was the person owning most wealth. There was only one bull in Ireland the equal of Finnbeannach; the great Brown Bull of Cooley ‘Donn Cuailnge’ – Maeve had to have him.

Maeve and her armies set off from Rathcroghan, Co Roscommon to take the Brown Bull of Cooley back to Connaught. So began the Cattle raid of Cooley with Queen Maeve’s army in battle with King Conor’s Ulstermen to take the Brown Bull by force.

As the Ulster Red Branch warriors were afflicted with the curse of Macha, which prevented them from fighting when most needed, 17- year- old  Cúchulainn, the greatest of all celtic heroes, defended the Brown Bull and Ulster.
There were many battles between Cúchulainn and Queen Maeve’s Army; she sent his foster-brother Ferdia to fight him in Ardee and after a 3-day epic battle Cúchulainn was the victor by killing Ferdia. 


Maeve eventually captures the Brown Bull and sets off for Connaught. The Ulster warriors awoke from their magical slumbers and repulsed Maeve’s army. 

In Connaught the White Bull of King Ailill was no match for the brown Bull who gored the White bull to pieces. The Brown Bull then headed back to Cooley but died of his exertions at Druim Tarb (The ridge of the bull). This ended the Cattle Raid of Cooley after which peace was made.

Ardee Battle - Photo Kevin Woods

Irelands Ancient East, The Táin March

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