Martin is boxing clever on return to hometown
COULD he still be a contender?
Fianna Fail's new electoral prize fighter Micheal Martin made his first return home yesterday since the general election was called; canvassing on his home canvas, as it were.
Appropriately, Mr Martin's afternoon even included a visit to The Glen Boxing Club in Blackpool, Jack Lynch's old stomping ground.
It was a visit rich in resonance for a party leader who prides himself on his love of sports.
While Fianna Fail may not quite be on the canvas, at least in boxing terminology, their canvassers have clearly taken heart from the manner in which their new leader had striven to bring the fight to Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein.
Mr Martin's stump speeches echo with defiant terms like "fightback", "energy", "recovery" and "responsibility".
The former Foreign Affairs Minister's day may have started in Dublin but his lunchtime return to Cork led to remarkably warm receptions in both Fermoy in north Cork and then in Blackpool in Cork city.
Some party handlers had appeared nervous that Mr Martin might encounter a repeat of the street heckler in Galway that made national headlines.
In fact, while his canvass didn't feature mass hysteria or marching bands, it was greeted with genuine warmth.
He even had the confidence in Fermoy to venture inside the Allied Irish Bank branch to greet customers, a brave move in a country where bailout is a word used in conversations around the water-cooler -- if anyone could still afford water-coolers.
At Gaelscoil de hIde, just 100 metres away, Mr Martin greeted teachers and pupils in Irish and was cheered to the echo as a result.
As he walked along the town's main street, motorists beeped their horns and gave him the 'thumbs up'.
Not bad, given that many party workers had anticipated a different kind of finger gesture given Ireland's economic and fiscal turmoil. It was a signal of things to come as even United Left Alliance canvassers seemed to inexplicably vanish in Blackpool as the Martin motorcade swept into the area.
Today, the Turner's Cross native will spend another day in Cork -- desperate to maximise the party's Dail seats where some analysts had feared they could drop as low as five seats across five constituencies.
It is a far cry from 2002 when FF managed to win a whopping 12 seats in the same five constituencies, setting a record for party electoral success.
Tomorrow, Mr Martin will briefly canvass in Cork before heading off to pastures new as he attempts to trigger the Rebel County factor in FF organisations nationwide.
He has already toured seven counties -- and intends to visit every county and constituency before February 24. "I want FF party workers to be energised and to work and fight for every single vote they can," Mr Martin said.
To do that, he appears more than willing to lead by example.