A FIANNA Fail commissioned poll which shows the party in meltdown in Laois-Offaly has forced its leadership to adopt a last gasp two candidate strategy which it hopes will see the party clinging onto two seats in the constituency.
While the outgoing Government party had expected to lose one seat before the poll, which had included Brian Cowen, the survey of public opinion confirmed its worst fears. The poll showed that if FF ran either three or four candidates as was intended, it would only have retained the outgoing Taoiseach's seat.
FF's two TDs in Laois would only have polled around 4,000 first preferences each - not enough to save either seat.
The poll's findings will be a disappointment for Fine Gael who are hoping to gain a benefit from FF's demise. While Charlie Flanagan would comfortably retain his Laois seat the polls also showed Marcella Corcoran Kennedy likely to be elected taking Olwyn Enright's place in south Offaly. It confirmed speculation that Sinn Fein's Brian Stanley was also doing well and taking a middle order seat.
Despite all the splits on the left, Labour's John Whelan was in the running for a seat and Liam Quinn of FG could also have a chance.
The damage limitation exercise expected to be adopted by FF HQ would see Minister of State John Moloney being sacrificed against his will.
The move has caused some consternation among Minister Moloney's supporters who believe that they are being short changed to save Sean Fleming.
While Minister Moloney had reservations about running at one stage, his views have changed in recent times saying he was "enthusiastic" about running. However, the Minister told the Leinster Express that he would not run as an independent and that he would be loyal to the party.
One FFer who is joining a long list of independents in the race is Cllr John Foley. The Edenderry councillor refused to accept the party's two candidate strategy.
Despite his late inclusion on the FF ticket, Paddy Power has made Barry Cowen joint favourite with Charlie Flanagan to top the poll. Sean Fleming who traditionally dislikes being tipped, is also being given at short odds to be returned to the Dail.
Cllr Brian Stanley and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy are the other favourites but the odds have shortened dramatically on south Offaly Independent John Leahy. John Moloney drifted in the betting over the weekend.