BOBBY AYLWARD has not been part of the rump of disaffected Fianna Fáil backbenchers for the past few years. He has the reputation of being a party loyalist and rarely speaks out of turn.
So the Carlow-Kilkenny TD's assessment of Brian Cowen's reshuffle last Tuesday certainly raised eyebrows. He said: "It was our last throw of the dice before the next general election and I think it was a missed opportunity."
The otherwise conservative party loyalist's branding of the reshuffle as a "missed opportunity" echoed the widespread criticism of the hand Cowen has dealt for himself to fight the next general election.
Rebel Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath claimed: "What the public wants is a fundamental sea-change and we did not get that. I'm disappointed that we have six teachers and three solicitors [in the cabinet]. I would have preferred to have seen six business men in there. We need people with business expertise to get this country up and running."
With TDs, from the conservative Aylward to the more radical McGrath, openly criticising the reshuffle, what should Cowen have done? What were the alternatives?
Formerly a financial manager with Friends First, O'Brien has impressed since his entry to the Dáil in 2007. The fact that he is a new deputy is one of the few factors that would have gone against this Cowen favourite. He is a certainty for promotion in future.
Another teacher, Conlon is highly regarded within the higher echelons of Fianna Fáil. Bright and personable, she is thought to have been in the shake-up for promotion. Sharing a constituency with existing minister Brendan Smith would have scuppered her chances, unless he was dropped.
Dooley has a business background and would have been worth a punt. The fact that he was elected only in 2007 meant that his more experienced constituency colleague, Tony Killeen, was always going to get the nod ahead of him.
From an engineering background, Blaney is seen as one of the brightest young TDs in Fianna Fáil. 'Leapfrogging' a Blaney over more seasoned TDs might have raised ire in some party circles. Although extremely cautious, he is one to watch in the future.
A farmer, he has been the junior minister for trade and commerce since 2007, a decade after entering the Dáil. Astute, media-savvy and a steady pair of hands , he would have been a welcome addition if Cowen had gone for a radical 'night of the long knives' reshuffle like former taoiseach Albert Reynolds.
Along with Michael McGrath, Byrne is one of the pair of Fianna Fáil TDs elected in 2007 who are regularly sent out to bat for the government when its back is against the wall. That shows the regard senior party figures have for Byrne, who is a solicitor. He is a more competent media performer than some of those left at the cabinet table.
A chartered accountant, McGrath has impressed since his entry to the Dáil after the last general election. Sharing a constituency with somebody as senior as foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin does not work in his favour, but his time will come.
Cregan did well in rounding up backbenchers under chief whip Pat Carey for Dáil votes. He is extremely popular in the parliamentary party and a promotion would have given his re-election hopes a boost as he is in a marginal seat.