Enda Kenny talks to journalists after his victory while Richard Bruton looks on

ON 14 September 1975, Islandeady played Ballinrobe in the Mayo intermediate football final.

Little over a year after he had qualified as a teacher, a 24-year-old Enda Kenny played on the half-back line for Islandeady. His brother Kieran was also on the team and another brother, Henry, was on the panel.

It was a proud day for the Kenny siblings as Islandeady beat Ballinrobe by two points.

A report in the Western People newspaper a few days later described how the team from the small parish of Islandeady, on the outskirts of Castlebar, had used "punch-and-crunch" tactics.

Spectators at the game were surprised at the way Enda Kenny had played aggressively on the edge to help his team overcome Ballinrobe.

Eight days ago, some of Kenny's detractors claimed that a heave was in the offing. They were going to go to the Fine Gael leader and tell him that he was not up to the job of becoming Taoiseach. It was going to be "a seamless transfer of power" and Fine Gael was not going to have a "bloodbath".

They thought that Kenny would take their advice. He was going to throw in his hat after 35 years in politics. The man who rebuilt the Fine Gael party and rescued it from oblivion in 2002 was going to lie down.

But they were wrong. Like the 24-year-old Islandeady half-back in that final in 1975, Kenny threw caution to the wind and returned to the 'punch-and- crunch' tactics.

Fine Gael's reputedly bright young Turks had gathered around the Oxbridge-educated Richard Bruton. So Kenny was left with a mish-mash of mainly rural TDs.

One senior Fianna Fáil figure, who lived through that party's heaves in the 1980s, said: "Kenny is going to win this one. It's the lads from Clongowes versus the lads from the tech. And the tech will win it."

And he was right. Kenny, as the captain of the tech team, outmanoeuvred the Clongowes set at every hand's turn and ground out a win, Islandeady 1975-style.

But where now for Enda Kenny? He has used the 'punch- and-crunch' tactics. What does he need to do to capitalise on a week when he has shown himself to be a political bruiser with a spine of steel.

A former senior Fine Gael figure said: "He needs to start within the party. There is clearly a big gap between the front bench and the rest of the parliamentary party, and between Enda and the front bench.

"The parliamentary party needs to be more collegial. Enda needs to appoint somebody within the party to rebuild the bridge between him and the front bench, and the front bench and the backbenchers. A lot of what went wrong was that people on the front bench said they were not being kept informed enough.

"The other problem Enda has is with the politburo. People behind the scenes have rubbed people up the wrong way. They have been taking decisions when elected politicians were not given the same decision-making power. These over-mighty officials are a problem and need to be dealt with."

The stalwart also believes that Kenny has done well out of last week's debacle.

"He was decisive, he has displayed inner strength and he was tactically very good. His performance under pressure was very strong. He is never going to be Abraham Lincoln but he has come across as honest and up to the job."

There is a view that most of the front bench are needed back there and a senior Fine Gael figure added: "There are not too many backbenchers crying out for promotion. So he needs to include, in a judicious way, a good proportion of his former front bench.

"He has to bring back a big number of them. Richard is a very decent and honourable person. Enda probably will make an offer to Richard but he probably will not accept it. After Richard has taken some time out, maybe he can make him an offer then."

And what about Michael Noonan? A Fine Gael figure, who is by no means close to Noonan and had serious differences with Noonan in the past, said: "Noonan is very solid. He would be a very valuable person on the front bench. He has good communication skills so I would bring him back."

The Fine Gael figure added that there is too much emphasis placed on the question of the effects the leader has on party popularity.

"There is much academic research that shows that the leadership is not that important. Having a leader like Nick Clegg didn't work for the Liberal Democrats in the UK. The election campaign will be very important and Enda will be very good on the campaign trail. Enda has the stamina and he is good with people.

"Fine Gael has been in the news in a way that they haven't been so that might attract a bit of a bounce in the polls."

Enda helped the tech beat Clongowes but the two teams need to amalgamate very quickly to ensure Fianna Fáil and Labour are beaten in the next round.