West Cork a key indicator for FF Dáil comeback
IF mother-of-two Margaret Murphy-O'Mahony can win a seat in Cork South West, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will be smiling a little more easily at his own count centre in Cork's City Hall on February 27.
The sprawling west Cork constituency typified the party's meltdown in 2011.
In the heyday of the late, great Joe Walsh TD, Fianna Fáil dominated Cork South West and easily elected two of the three TDs on General Michael Collins's home turf. Five years ago, the party was wiped out with Fine Gael winning the two seats they had traditionally held while Labour made a historic breakthrough.
Mr Martin's drive to win back strategic Dáil seats and boost the profile of women within the party is best encapsulated in west Cork.
Two party stalwarts, both men, were overlooked by the party - one, Councillor Alan Coleman, subsequently left to run as an independent - as Fianna Fáil opted for Mrs Murphy-O'Mahony.
A former Mayor of Bandon, she was first elected to Cork County Council in 2004.
She admitted her primary focus now is to restore Fianna Fáil's campaigning organisation in west Cork and restore local pride by winning a seat and upsetting the Coalition hegemony.
"It was a huge honour for me to be chosen as the party candidate in Cork South West," she said.
"I come from a proud Fianna Fáil background and I know how important it is to the party and its members to win back our seat here," she said.
"That's what I intend to do and I'm working really hard to do it.
"I've gained a reputation as a hard worker and if I don't get a seat in the election it certainly will not be for lack of trying."
Cork South West is another constituency where Labour's contrasting fortunes between 2011 and 2016 are likely to be put in sharp focus.
Michael McCarthy faces a grim battle to defend a seat which he won by just 600 votes five years ago.
For the first time, Fianna Fáil had failed to elect a TD west of Bandon in 2011.
Councillor Murphy-O'Mahony is now flying the party banner but the key issue will be how strong a vote Councillor Coleman, the outgoing Mayor of Cork County and long-time Fianna Fáil member, attracts running as an independent.
Councillor Michael Collins is also expected to perform strongly as an independent.
A further key issue will be the strength of the Sinn Féin vote where Rachel McCarthy is expected to poll extremely well.
Prediction: FG (2) and FF (1).
Cork South West
FG Noel Harrington TD, FG Jim Daly TD, LAB Michael McCarthy TD, FF Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, SF Rachel McCarthy, GP Johnny O'Mahony, IND Alan Coleman, IND Michael Collins, IND Fiona O'Leary, IND Theresa Heaney & IND Gillian Powell.