Ten days out from the 2007 general election, the front page of the Irish Independent laid things out starkly: Fianna Fáil in Nosedive said its splash.

Bertie Ahern's efforts to secure a historic third term had been overshadowed by controversy over his personal finances while the alternative government of Fine Gael and Labour had edged ahead in the polls.

With Enda Kenny in the driving seat and all of Fianna Fáil’s other tricks falling flat - the Finance Minister of the day, Brian Cowen, knew there was only one way to turn things around.

A press conference was called for the party’s headquarters. With a 45-minute speech, waving papers in the air he said there was a reason why Fine Gael was hiding Enda Kenny and goaded his opponents to "come in and answer" questions about their spending plans.

It was an intervention widely considered to have buoyed up the party and wrestled the agenda back to the economy - thereby turning that campaign around and securing a third term for Fianna Fáil.

Leo Varadkar has long since believed that he would have a difficult start to this campaign. He also believed that it would be won in the final week and on the issue of the economy. He told his party as much as the Fine Gael president’s dinner in October.

There is still time for a last-minute turn around, but it’s running out. The 11th hour is almost upon us and Fine Gael needs a Cowen moment. So far, they haven’t landed it.

Paschal Donohoe delivered a passionate but more mannerly intervention at a press conference this morning where he called out the "mantras of change" being put up by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

"What Fianna Fáil are doing is repeating the worst hits of their recent past and what Sinn Féin are offering is the kind of ideas that will do such harm to workers' income to their wages and their jobs," he said. 

"If there is mood for change - and we can see that there is - we are asking people to think about who has delivered the recent change of the past, and asking of the change being put forward by others, is it risky and does it create dangers?"

The Finance Minister said he would be "unapologetic" in challenging other parties and bringing that message to every home, every village and every television station in the country.

The message is being expressed loud and clear. But so far, the Fine Gael siren bells about the risks being posed by other parties are doing little to frighten voters.

The sort of political street fighting that might have helped swing a campaign in the past has not found its place in this election which is being contested in the era of more professionalised and polished electioneering.

That is not to say that this campaign is without negativity. It’s just another version of negative campaigning.

The biggest Fine Gael attack has - arguably - been Leo Varadkar’s description of some in Fianna Fáil as "backwoodsmen".

This was to act as a reminder that 31 of its TDs and Senators were opposed to repealing the Eighth Amendment ahead of the referendum in May 2018.

The theme was followed up by his interview with Sean O’Rourke this morning in which he said that his government has made the country a more modern and compassionate place compared to a Fianna Fáil government that would be less enthusiastic about social change.

It is part of a Fine Gael strategy to reach out to the liberal, more urbane voter that would have been supportive of his government in the aftermath of that referendum but who might have since been swayed by others like the Green Party, Labour or Social Democrats who, incidentally, could form part of a Fianna Fáil coalition.

As a strategy it is risky, as it involves fishing in a small pond at the expense of a far bigger pool of votes for the Fine Gael candidates in parts of the country who might not be so impressed with the "backwoodsmen" jibe.

Fianna Fáil hit back at the comments with its finance spokesperson, Michael McGrath, saying they were a sign of desperation and that the Taoiseach was taking a "nasty personalised approach". He went on to invoke the words of Michelle Obama saying "when they go low, we go high".

But Fine Gael has said that Fianna Fáil too has engaged in negative tactics. Mr Varadkar said comments by Micheál Martin about Fine Gael TDs having a sense of "entitlement and privilege" were "nasty".

"People in Fine Gael come from all walks of life," he said, adding that the Fianna Fáil leader is "trying to inject class conflict in to politics".

If Brian Cowen was coming out and fighting his corner in the schoolyard scrap, then the squabbling we have seen today is more akin to telling the teacher.

Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, is casting herself as being above all of this. She said the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have an "obsession" with criticising Sinn Féin and talking about themselves and that an "adult in the room" was needed.

Whether she seeks to continue the posture of the grown up when she takes part in tomorrow night’s debate on RTÉ’s Prime Time remains to be seen.

But being the perceived outsider who made her way to the top table with the boys is something that will do little to tarnish her reputation among an electorate yearning for change.

She might have stayed out of the fray for today but that won’t last for long. With her party surging in the polls and the parties scraping out for advantage, Sinn Féin policies will come under focus in a way that they haven't before.