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One of the seven sons of King Conchobar Maenmaige Ua Conchobair, his nickname carragh ('scabby') suggests he had some sort of skin disease. The identities of his mother and wife are unknown. He first came to prominence during the war of the rigdamnae in 1185, supporting his father in a three-way contest against Conchobair's father, King Ruaidhri of Connacht, and Ruaidhri's brother, Cathal Crobderg Ua Conchobair.
After his father's assassination in 1189, Cathal hunted down and killed the instigator, the mysterious Conchobar ua nDiarmata. Cathal became king but faced contention from Cathal Crobderg; the dynastic in-fighting aided the introduction of Anglo-Norman forces west of the Shannon, who were employed by both men.
Cathal was killed in battle at Corr Sliaib in the Curlew Mountains in 1202. He was survived by at least one son, Melaghlin, who was killed ten years later.
- Doyle, Jim (27 May 2017). "Death of Cathal Crobhdearg Ua Conchobair, the King of Connacht". seamus dubhghaill. Retrieved 7 June 2023.
- Veach, Colin (2018), Smith, Brendan (ed.), "Conquest and Conquerors", The Cambridge History of Ireland: Volume 1: 600–1550, The Cambridge History of Ireland, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, vol. 1, pp. 157–182, ISBN 978-1-316-27539-9, retrieved 7 June 2023
- Ua Conchobair, Cathal Carrach, Ailbhe Mac Shamhrain, in Dictionary of Irish Biography ... to the year 2002: Volume 9, Staines - Z, p. 569. Cambridge, 2010.