Mr McConalogue, who was educated in UCD, is now the party’s standard bearer in the constituency, but the presence of Pat “the Cope” Gallagher and John Ryan means there is a danger of the FF vote being split.
While Mr McConalogue should be returned, Mr Gallagher is by no means assured of a return to the Dáil and will be in a scramble with Independent TD Thomas Pringle and Sinn Féin’s Gary Doherty for the last seat.
Donegal, more so than any other constituency, will reveal how strong the Sinn Féin surge is. Now a single constituency again (as it had been between 1921 and 1937 and between 1977 to 1981), sitting TDs Pearse Doherty and Padraig Mac Lochlainn should be returned. However, were Gary Doherty to sneak in as well, it would be a remarkable performance by Sinn Féin.
Fine Gael’s hopes rest on the shoulders of junior minister Joe McHugh, following the retirement of the popular Dinny McGinley. Paddy Harte junior joins McHugh on the Fine Gael ticket, but there is only one Fine Gael seat here.
The loss of a seat here for Fine Gael would be the result of the failure of the Government to ensure the economic recovery took hold in this dysfunctional county.
Urban centres like Donegal town, Killybegs, Letterkenny, and Buncrana will be key in deciding this highly competitive battle, and while Mr Mac Lochlainn, Mr McHugh, Mr Doherty, and Mr McConalogue are easy to predict in terms of retaining their seats, the final seat is very hard to call.
At this stage, we reckon the impressive and pragmatic Mr Pringle should just shade it over Mr Gallagher and the other Mr Doherty, but that could change before polling day.
Independent Alliance candidate Niamh Kennedy has impressed and could also challenge for a seat but would need a good stroke of fortune to edge out those mentioned above.
The Labour Party has never had success in Donegal and the party’s decision not to contest is a sign of its woes at present.
So, at present we call it for the incumbents, but Mr Pringle is by no means assured of his seat.