The earliest surviving list appears in the Baile Chuind (The Ecstasy of Conn) a late seventh century poem in which Conn of the Hundred Battles experiences a vision of the kings who will succeed him.
Many of these kings appear to correspond with the kings of later traditions, although the order is different, and some of the kings cannot be identified.
The last four kings following Snechta Fína (Fínsnechta Fledach) do not correspond with any of the kings in later lists.
The poem is therefore presumed to have been written during his time, and the kings who follow him are presumed to be fictional.
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With few exceptions, kings belong to Dál Cuinn (the Connachta and Uí Néill).
Understood as a list of Kings of Tara, it is not considered to be inclusive.
The individuals appearing prior to the fifth century AD are generally considered legendary, and the application of the title to individuals before the ninth century is considered anachronistic.
They would be replaced by the Eóganachta, who established the Kingship of Cashel, later to rival Tara.
The Lebor Gabála Érenn, dating to the 11th–12th century, purports to list every High King from remote antiquity to the time of Henry II's Lordship of Ireland in 1171.
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The annalists frequently describe later high kings as rígh Érenn co fressabra ("Kings of Ireland with Opposition"), which is a reference to the instability of the kingship of Tara from the death of Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill in 1022.