MacCarthy (Mac Carthaig), Fingen (d. 1261), king of Desmond, was for the five years before his death the most prominent Irish ruler of Munster. He apparently succeeded his father, Domnall Got Cairprech MacCarthy (d. 1252), as king of Desmond on the latter's death; his mother's name is not known. Domnall Got was a son of Domnall Mór (qv) and a younger brother to Diarmait Dúna Droignéin (qv). Much of Fingen's later success was built on the firm foundations laid by Domnall Got Cairprech after his emergence in 1232. His rise was achieved through the systematic removal of familial rivals and establishment of a firm power base in the region known as Cairbre in south-west Cork. Domnall Got Cairprech's power and prestige were evidenced through his foundation of the Franciscan monastery of Timoleague in Cairbre (1240). He probably realised his ambitions to become king of Desmond after the death (1247) of the incumbent, Cormac Finn MacCarthy, his brother. However, within a year he was faced with a serious challenge to his rule from his nephew Fingen, son of Diarmait Dúna Droignéin. This led him to cement an alliance with the Anglo-Norman family of de Cogan, who were also threatened by Fingen's growing power. The following year Fingen was killed by the allies in breach of a truce. His demise, however, did not prove to be the solution to Domnall Got Cairprech's problems. Increasingly he had to contend with the ambitions of the expansionary FitzGeralds. According to the Annals of Inisfallen, Domnall Got Cairprech was finally tricked and killed (29 August 1252) by John fitz Thomas FitzGerald (qv). His murderers seemingly had the encouragement of the wife of Séfraid O'Donoghue (Ó Donnchada). After the murder of Domnall Got Cairprech, his son Fingen succeeded him as king. The first annalistic references to Fingen show him avenging the murder by burning O'Donoghue and his family to death in an attack during 1253/4. Throughout the 1250s he continued to consolidate his rule within the greater MacCarthy patrimony by removing internal threats and promoting clients. Together with the O'Donovans (Uí Donnabáin) he revenged the death of An Crom O'Donovan by killing Mac Raith O'Mahony (Ó Mathgamna) in 1258/9. By late 1260 Fingen was campaigning with Crimthann O'Moriarty (Ó Muirchertaig) in Kerry against the ever-encroaching Anglo-Norman settlers. When O'Moriarty was killed on the campaign, Fingen devastated a wide area of Anglo-Norman settlement in revenge during the following year. The scale and success of the devastation wrought by Fingen resulted in the dispatch of an Anglo-Norman army under the justiciar, William East Dean (qv). The FitzGeralds were among the principal leaders of the army and among its ranks was a large contingent of Irish troops, including Domnall Ruad MacCarthy (qv), Fingen's cousin and rival. Fingen studiously avoided confrontation with the army and drew it further into the inhospitable mountains of Kerry. On 24 July 1261 at Callan in the hills above Kenmare he adeptly used the rugged terrain to inflict a catastrophic defeat on the justiciar and the Anglo-Norman magnates of Desmond. Among the dead were John fitz Thomas FitzGerald and his heir, Maurice. This defeat proved a decisive turning point for Anglo-Norman Desmond and signalled the re-emergence of the MacCarthy hegemony. Fingen successfully followed up his victory by a widespread rampage against Anglo-Norman settlements throughout Desmond. He was killed during an attack on Kinsale (29 September 1261) and was succeeded as king of Desmond by his brother, Cormac.
ALC; AU (1895); AU (1983); Ann Conn.; Misc. Ir. Annals; Ann. Inisf.; AFM (1990) i–ii; NHI, ix, 154; D. Ó Murchadha, ‘The castle of Dún Mic Oghmainn and the overlordship of Carbery’, Cork Hist. Soc. Jn., xciii (1988), 73–82