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Own-goal contest as candidates limber up

A Fianna Fail leadership race is like a slow bicycle race. The rest of us get to look on and watch them all fall off.

The first installment last week was effectively an own goal competition among the main candidates.

Micheal Martin blew it with his ministerial non-resignation.

Brian Lenihan got caught saying one thing in public and another in private.

Mary Hanafin was caught mumbling inaudibly and refusing to say whether she supported the leader or not.

That was the 7.30 bumper last Tuesday evening. There is at least one more race on the card before this one is over, and a few more runners and riders being added by the minute.

Eamon O Cuiv is a runner in his own mind anyway, desperately pleading his Ballsbridge credentials on yesterday's extended RTE One bulletin. He grew up there, he said, but did not try to put on the accent.

Yesterday was about extended news bulletins, sports shows and reality TV being binned, about studio analysts struggling to keep up with the pace of breaking news. "Turn off your mobile phones" pleaded Rachel English on Saturday, when everybody knew that that the last thing a politician should do is turn off their phone.

Conor Lenihan was the unlikeliest of the riders. Having spent most of the weekend in radio and TV studios, he eventually told RTE's David Davin Power he was no longer interested in the leadership.

But it was the other Lenihan, Brian, who was sounding all presidential, talking of how the election would not be a walkover.

Back in the real world Michael Noonan and Pat Rabbitte were playing for the real prize on behalf of their leaders.

This election could well be fought by the ex-leaders of the various parties, while the leaders stay safely out of view.

Now there's an idea.