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'You can't keep a good man down. He's the future'

THE groan was reminiscent of when Cork blew their chance of an All-Ireland hurling three-in-a-row back in 2006 and Roy Keane was sent home from the World Cup four years earlier.

On Leeside, many in Fianna Fail continue to regard Micheal Martin as the heir to Jack Lynch's proud mantle as 'de real Taoiseach'.

But last night it was painfully clear in pubs and homes across Cork South Central that the Turner's Cross native will have to wait a little longer if he is to finally grasp the FF leadership crown and emulate Leeside's beloved former Taoiseach.

Across Cork, the only conversation last night was how the Foreign Affairs Minister's leadership bid appeared to have backfired so spectacularly despite apparently overwhelming advantages.

These ranged from a succession of dire opinion polls blighting FF, right through to record-low approval ratings for Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

In Turner's Cross, the veteran Cork TD's stomping ground, the disappointment was palpable. But it was mixed with ample warnings of what now awaited the party at the polling booths.

"It's like snatching disaster from the jaws of victory," one wit in Barry's Pub in Douglas quipped.

Yet Mr Martin's apparent Parliamentary Party defeat to Mr Cowen came as little surprise to many Cork pundits who had sensed a dramatic change in the winds of fortune since Monday evening.

"But I don't think any of it will make any difference -- I think people are very angry with what has happened in this country," Linda O'Donovan said.

Her husband now has to travel to Dublin each week from his Cork home just for work in the construction sector.

In Douglas, taxi driver Paul Kenefick admitted a Cork-based leader of FF would probably have been good for the city in the medium to long-term.

"I think it would have been good for Cork -- but who knows whether it would make any difference to what happens in the general election."

Mr Kenefick refused to write off Mr Martin's long-term leadership chances. "I think he'd make a very good leader -- but no matter who is in charge of FF it is going to be a very tough election for them."

In Turner's Cross itself, those returning from Mass last night were philosophical about Mr Cowen seeming poised to successfully defy the challenge to his leadership.

"I kind of guessed things weren't looking good for Micheal when I heard that a lot of the other cabinet ministers were rowing in behind Cowen," Pat Murphy said.


"But Micheal will be okay -- you can't keep a good man down. He's the future man."

But Mr Murphy also pointed out that being a local sometimes doesn't help given that Jack Lynch's time as Taoiseach was scuppered by a by-election defeat for FF in his native Cork.

In Douglas, Ann Hanrahan echoed Ms O'Donovan's comments that it was now difficult to distinguish between some of the main parties. But she said FF did appear destined for a painful election irrespective of whoever was at the party helm.

"People have suffered a lot in Ireland over the past few years and I think they want to hold someone responsible for all that has happened," she said.

That, unfortunately for Mr Cowen, now appears to be FF -- irrespective of whoever has won the right to have his face on the election posters.

Irish Independent