Taking a welcome break from the campaign trail, Fianna Fáil canvassers assembled in the Orchard Bar on Ballinlough Road in Cork city, where Mr Martin has hosted many a constituency clinic.
The scheme was in stark contrast to the Silver Key bar in Mr Martin’s back yard where the debate wasn’t on due to a lack of interest.
“Go on Micheál,” they roared in the Orchard as their hero launched his opening salvo at Eamon Gilmore.
Reaction was muted for much of the first half and by half-time the consensus was the men were pretty evenly matched.
Diarmuid Kenneally, from Wilton, believed the debate was well-balanced.
“I wouldn’t say Micheál had the upper hand. It started out as a level playing field and each of them played to their strengths, but Micheál is a great debater and I do think Gilmore is doing more defending at the moment of some of the points that he’s made.”
The debate was not tame, he said, but “very controlled”.
“And the chair [Vincent Browne] isn’t interrupting for a change. But it’s good that it’s controlled because we don’t want bull and that’s what you get when people start shouting at one another.”
Liz O’Connell from Orchard Road felt the Fianna Fáil leader was doing “extremely well”.
The loudest cheer of the night — with the exception of the roar when Ireland scored on the TV at the other end of the bar — was when Mr Gilmore was made aware of his mistake in addressing Mr Martin as “Minister” .
Brian Nolan, from Wilton, had one eye on the TV and another on Twitter and was delighted to read that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny had been caught by a photographer eating while the Great Debate was underway.
Wearing green jerseys with Micheál Martin on the front and No 1 on the back were UCC students Fiona Griffin from Tipperary, Elaine Dold from Dingle and Deborah O’Neill, all members of the Donogh O’Malley Ogra Cumann, All were critical of Mr Kenny’s no-show.
Fianna Fáil stalwarts councillors Terry Shannon and Donal Counihan felt Mr Martin’s government experience had stood to him. So too did punter Michael Niblock from Ballinlough,
“The debate didn’t ignite at all to be honest,” Michael said.
Pat McKee was glad Mr Martin didn’t rise to any of Mr Gilmore’s jibes — but the subdued performance of Vincent Browne was the biggest surprise of the night.