It is an anecdote so well-worn that it has made its way into the popular lexicon, and become a jokey shorthand for all sorts of political incidents.
According to party leader Eamon Ryan, when the Greens arrived for government formation talks with Fianna Fáil in 2007, they were told by the late Seamus Brennan: “You are playing senior hurling now lads — but you are playing with lads with All Ireland medals.”
The message was clear — Fianna Fáil was the party that could negotiate, manouevre, and deliver at the top level of Irish politics.
Flash forward 13 years and Fianna Fáil holds the keys to the Taoiseach’s office and controls the ministries of housing, health, and public expenditure.
And yet there’s a sense that the party is either constantly in turmoil or fighting to contain a problem of its own making — something a party member describes as “leaky shoes” because of the number of shots fired at the party’s own feet.
But for some, this is just Fianna Fáil — a party whose members always seems to be at odds with one another but always hold it together and perform come election time.
This is a party that, after requiring a €64bn bailout, went to the Irish public and received 387,000 first preference votes.
But just two months after forming a historic coalition with Fine Gael and the Greens, some in the party believe Fianna Fáil is destined never lead a government again.
Others believe the road back for the party will require a long, introspective look at how business is done.
A smaller cohort believe Fianna Fáil will be just fine as it is, betting the farm on delivering massively in key areas of government over the coming years.
The ancient history of Fianna Fáil is well worn. Founded in 1926 by Éamon de Valera and proceeding to lead the country for the majority of the time in between, the party formed coalitions with the left and the right, and transformed its image as the country changed around it.
But that is not really the history of this Fianna Fáil, the Fianna Fáil of the new millenium.
Sure, there is still great reverence to the likes of Dev and Lemass, but the Fianna Fáil which today forms one of the three pillars of Irish government is more a product of the last decade than the last century.
As Irish politics has shifted, the party has been accused internally of shifting too much but also not enough — of chasing liberal kudos on social issues and of being too conservative.
But some in the party say that is exactly the point of Fianna Fáil — that it is the broadest of broad churches all with one unifying theme around it — work together despite your differences and change things from within
“I don’t care about social issues, politically speaking,” one senior party member says.
“I have my own opinion, obviously, but I care about economics, mostly.”
To trace the line between Fianna Fáil then and Fianna Fáil now, you need to go back to the beginning of 2011.
Ireland was just months removed from an EU/IMF bailout and Taoiseach Brian Cowen was staring down his own party.
Determined not to resign as Taoiseach, Mr Cowen put down a motion of confidence in his own leadership at a parliamentary party meeting.
That move saw a challenger concretely emerge — Foreign Affairs Minister
While Martin was seen as the heir apparent and was popular in the party at the time, Mr Cowen survived, winning the vote.
“Fianna Fáil doesn’t vote against its leaders,” one source said.
One former TD said that Mr Cowen survived the vote for a number of reasons.
“There was a bit of a sense that you’d be handing Micheál a hospital pass, in a way.
Though Mr Cowen survived, he was a lame duck and a botched attempt at a Cabinet reshuffle led to his resignation and a hastily-called leadership election.
Within four days, the party’s TDs had voted to install Mr Martin as the party leader in a four-way race with Mary Hanafin, Brian Lenihan, and Éamon Ó Cuív.
“It wasn’t like there was a massive enthusiasm for any candidate, but Micheál was clearly the best choice at the time,” the former TD says.
So, with just 30 days to go to the general election, Mr Martin took on the role of Fianna Fáil party leader, steering what was already accepted as a doomed ship to an electoral disaster.
From 72 TDs, the party fell to just 20. But there were signs that the party could be optimistic about its future.
Firstly, they would lead the opposition to a huge coalition government which would have to enact austerity measures.
Secondly, there had been seats picked up by young TDs Charlie McConalogue and Robert Troy, showing that while the public had fallen out with the party, there was no reason to believe they would not be forgiven.
Taking 15% of the vote on their very worst day certainly made many confident that there was, at least, a road back for the party.
“Fifteen per cent is not a wipeout. It’s a severe setback, a rebuff,” said former TD Martin Mansergh.
On the day the election was called in January, Fianna Fáil was flying high, holding a 12 percentage point lead over Fine Gael in a Sunday Times/Behaviour and Attitudes poll carried out over the same few days.
Fianna Fáil may have won the most seats in February’s vote out of any party, but the
victory was tempered by heavy losses
“The only policy the party has had for over a year is to make Micheál Martin the Taoiseach.”
If Mr Martin is a superstitious man, he will have looked dimly at the weather on June 27 as Dublin’s heavens opened up and poured rain on top of those arriving at the base of Kevin Roche’s glass cylinder along the banks of the Liffey.
Instead, he cut a relaxed figure. A man who had avoided the ignominy of being the first Fianna Fáil leader not to lead the country.
Mr Martin often says that things like that don’t affect his thinking and you would well believe him as he claims that he puts policy over personal politics.
Within the party, he is liked by many and respected by nearly all, but like all party leaders is accused of playing favourites by those who see themselves outside the tent.
He says that he wants to continue as party leader when his term as Taoiseach ends, but with both Barry Cowen and Jim O’Callaghan, who turned down Mr Martin’s offer of a junior ministry, positioning themselves for the role, how long more can he hang on?
“We don’t heave against leaders, really,” one source said.
“That’s more a Fine Gael thing. We would always be off the opinion that it’s his decision when to leave.
"But what is far more likely is that one of his allies will be tapped on the shoulder and told the majority are ready for him to go and to relay that message.”
Having waited so long to become Taoiseach, Mr Martin has bet the farm on big items.
He wants Fianna Fáil to overhaul Ireland’s housing delivery and to do so fast.
He wants to see real progress in delivering change to the health system and he wants to protect rural Ireland from the impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit.
He is banking on these issues being delivered upon because he knows it is Fianna Fáil’s route back to government after the next election.
But it is a weighty gamble given the current climate, despite Mr Martin’s confidence in himself and his team.
Having proved a decent opposition, if not one that dominated the agenda as often as it might have liked, Fianna Fáil went into the 2016 general election polling a percentage around the low 20s, but would return 24% of the vote and add 23 seats to the 21 it ended the Dáil term with.
That, however, wouldn’t be enough to see the party back into Government Buildings and the options from either side were not great.
“We could have tried to form a
minority government with Sinn Féin, but how long would that have lasted?” asks one party source.
“In the end, we were left with that.”
That, of course being the confidence and supply agreement, which the party entered into, propping up a minority government of Fine Gael and independents.
“That was the beginning of the end,” says a party source. “We accepted the argument that it was Fine Gael or Sinn Féin as a political choice.
"I mean, what were we? A real opposition or a mudguard? It was hard to tell at times.
Some within Fianna Fáil were keen to be seen as more than just another party and felt that walking away from the agreement on one issue or another, be it a one-off controversy or a long-term issue like health or housing, would play well with people.
Others, however, cautioned that taking the ball and going home would reflect poorly on the party.
One TD says that the unusual arrangement hampered the party in the eyes of the public, who met many Fianna Fáil grievances with a shrugging of shoulders and the not unfair question of ‘If you’re so angry, why not pull your support?’.
“The real upshot of it was this — we ended up being an opposition that was trying to hold a government to account while at the same time allowing it to continue, which put us in no man’s land, really.”
In the end, then-taoiseach Leo Varadkar was able to take his time over calling an election, but Fianna Fáil felt more than ready.
With Micheál Martin Taoiseach, the challenge is for Fianna Fáil to rebuild internally, something both Barry Cowen and Jim O’Callaghan have hinted at working towards, to ensure he is not the last Fianna Fáil Taoiseach.
James O’Connor says that despite a shaky start in government, he is confident that the work can be done, praising the party for taking on difficult portfolios.
“From my perspective, there is a serious desire to see that the government is being run by competent politicians.
"We have exceptionally able ministers and I’m sure that they’ll get a chance to show what they can do in the next few months.
Others are more downbeat in their appraisal of the party’s future.
“It’s hard to say, but it will take a lot of work from whoever the next leader is,” says one TD.
Another senior party source says that the party is in a tailspin from which it cannot recover.
“I think we’ve handed over the idea that the choices are us and Fine Gael, so we’ve set ourselves up to be that mudguard going forward.
"I think it will be a slow death.”