The Palaeogene Slieve Gullion Igneous Complex comprises a layered central intrusion surrounded by a slightly older ring dyke. The ring dyke contains two major intrusive rock types. About 70% of the ring dyke is occupied by porphyritic granophyre and 30% by porphyritic felsite. Locally complex relationships between the two lithologies are observed. Major and trace element compositions suggest that there are two distinct chemical groups within each lithology: a Si-rich felsite, concentrated in a ~1 m wide zone at the outer margins of the dyke which grades into a less Si-rich felsite towards the interior. Similarly, a Si-rich granophyre, concentrated in the centre of the intrusion grades outwards into a Si-poor granophyre facies.
These rock relationships and geochemical variations suggest that a complex magma chamber hosted a stratified granitic magma body and various wall/floor magma facies. Low density, high-Si felsite magma from the top of the chamber was tapped first, followed by less Si-rich felsite magma as evacuation proceeded. The granophyres probably originate from the chamber walls/floor, representing more mushy equivalents of the felsite magma. Little granophyre magma was tapped during the early stages of the evacuation sequence. As evacuation continued, probably aided by trap-door caldera collapse, the ‘granophyre magmas’ intruded the already emplaced and slightly cooled felsite, forming the complexly zoned structure of the Slieve Gullion ring intrusion.