Before the modern counties of Ireland, the island was politically divided into provincial kingdoms with blurry boundaries, each with its own royal family and historical reputation. Dublin is in the province of Leinster (LINN-ster), covering most of east and southeast Ireland. Cork is the principal city of Munster, Galway and the west of Ireland are in Connacht (CON-ut). The six counties of what is now Northern Ireland PLUS Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan in the Republic make up the province of Ulster. A fifth kingdom, Mide (from which County Meath gets its name) existed to the northwest of Dublin, but was later incorporated into Leinster.
Each province has its own heraldry and flag: the harp of Leinster, the three crowns of Munster, the black eagle and swordarm of Connacht, and the Red Hand of Ulster—taken from a grisly story in which an Ulsterman cut off his own hand and threw it across the finish line ahead of his opponent to win a high-stakes race.
The provinces have next to no political significance today—especially Ulster, which straddles an international boundary—but they live on in regional pride and in the sports leagues. The top-tier Irish rugby association fields a team from each province, and the intercounty Gaelic sports play provincial championships before the All-Ireland finals. Look for the symbols on flags, banners, and even advertisements trying to capitalize on provincial pride.
Dublin in Detail: The Four Provinces is an excerpt from The Frugal Guide: Dublin, a totally free eBook guide to the great Irish capital by Cory Hanson. Find out more about the book, and download your free copy in your choice of multiple formats, on the Frugal Guide page here on Five Suitcases.