It's Cork v Roscommon in Macra president race
The race to become the next Macra na Feirme president has developed into a two-horse race between Roscommon's Sean Finan and Cork native Michelle O'Callaghan.
Ballots in the election close at 1pm today, by which time the 5,000 eligible Macra members will have voted through their 193 branches. The new president, who takes over from Kieran O'Dowd, is expected to be known before 4pm.
While most observers are reluctant to call the contest, the expectation is that Eamon Cassells (Athboy) and Paddy Delaney (Timahoe) will go out in the first two counts, leaving Sean Finan (Castlerea) and Michelle O'Callaghan (Knockraha) to battle it out.
Cork holds almost 25pc of the votes, and 41pc of the 193 votes nationally are in the Munster region. This should provide a strong base of support for Michelle O'Callaghan, a former national secretary and executive member.
However, holding the southern vote intact is a challenge that has never been achieved in previous Macra elections, even though O'Callaghan is described as very popular within the organisation. Insiders point out that Cork is split into five separate regions and securing support across all the Rebel districts could also prove difficult.
In contrast, the northwest has a history of solidly backing their candidate and Sean Finan appears to have benefitted in this regard. His position as northwest vice-president has secured his support base in the region, while his role as Macra treasurer has ensured a strong profile at national level.
The key for Finan will be to keep in front of the two Leinster candidates in the early rounds.
Eamon Cassells is well established in farming circles in the Royal County and has widespread branch contacts as Macra competition secretary. Meanwhile, Laois's Paddy Delaney, is Leinster vice-president and has strong support in the southern half of the province.