Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar might have been out observing the livestock at the mart in Fermoy. But questions abounded about who would be going out to grass in the spring - and they did not relate to the cattle.

If a weekend opinion poll had some Fine Gael TDs feeling nervous, then a second poll yesterday evening did little to halt the decline of confidence in the party.

While all sides apply their caveats to polls - they're a snap-shot in time; they don’t match what they're hearing on the ground, and there is just one poll that matters - they can change the focus, the coherence and the confidence of a campaign.  

The decline in support for Fine Gael suggested by last night's Irish Times opinion poll - which is outside of the margin of error - is enough to set off alarm bells in Fine Gael headquarters and leave individual candidates watching their backs.

By choosing the mart in Fermoy for this morning's set piece, Mr Varadkar’s campaign team was focusing on two demographics which the polls would suggest are problematic for the party: Rural farming communities and Munster.

According to the Sunday Times Behaviour and Attitudes poll, the party’s support in Munster is at 13% compared to Fianna Fáil’s 49%. TDs believe the Irish Times poll suggestion of 21% for Fine Gael compared to 28% for Fianna Fáil in Munster is far closer to reality.

Either way, when you have an analyst like Eugene Phelan of the Limerick Leader raising questions on the Six One News about whether Fine Gael can win any seat in Limerick City, many candidates will be taking note.

If there are any signs of strain, then the Fine Gael leader wasn't showing them out on the campaign trail. His take on the poll was that "there is a lot of volatility, it is all to play for".

Volatility has indeed been a strong feature in recent general elections in this country - both within campaigns themselves and between elections.

The results of the 2011 election were described as "seismic" after the electorate gave one hell of a kicking to the outgoing government and the most traditionally dominant party, Fianna Fáil, while opting for the biggest ever clear out of the Dáil - with two thirds of TDs losing their seats.

Five years later and the 2016 election had equally dramatic results, with the outgoing Fine Gael-Labour coalition punished to almost exactly the same seat numbers as Fianna Fáil five years previously.

The result was a fragmented political landscape, an election that no one really won yielding a minority government and a system of governance which this country had never seen before.

Successive opinion polls in the years since have shown that pattern continuing, with no party building up enough of a head of steam that would give them a clear mandate to form a government - unless it was either a minority government or a coalition made up of multiple parts. 

There is little sign at this point of that changing. In fact, while polls show that neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil managing to get a clear enough lead on each other, the latest Irish Times poll throws Sinn Féin into the mix suggesting it is just two points behind Fine Gael.

It is all to play for, too. Successive RTÉ Exit polls have shown that voters increasingly make their mind up during the course of a campaign. In 2016 some 15% of voters were election-day deciders, while 44% said they made their mind up during the course of the campaign.

One question at the outset of this campaign was whether minority governments in a more diverse parliamentary system, which in many ways is a natural consequence of our voting system, are here to stay.

Or whether the experience of the last Dáil - with its "new politics" under the confidence and supply deal - would focus voter minds on a choice between which party would lead government.

The latest polls point to a continuation of the trend that emerged in the last two elections and a period of government formation could be as drawn out as long time around.

Election 2020 could yet lead to fragmentation once again.