Mid Ulster is virtually certain to return another Sinn Fein MP next week but there are still many talking points around the by-election, writes political reporter John Manley O N PAPER the 2013 Mid Ulster by-election offered little for political anoraks to get excited about.
It has been said that if Sinn Fein veteran Francie Molloy isn't returned as MP following next Thursday's poll, there's every likelihood the sun won't rise the next day.
So with such a predictable out-come, will the result tell us anything?
Like every other constituency in the north, there are 'bread and butter' issues in Mid Ulster, such as concerns over A&E provision, the continuing slump in the building industry and squeezed farming incomes.
However, these are unlikely to be to the fore in voters' minds when they enter the polling booth to choose a successor to Martin McGuinness, left.
Commentator Brian Feeney believes the election is as close to a sectarian headcount as you're likely to get, especially given the decision to run a joint unionist candidate.
He doesn't envisage turn-out matching the level of 2001 - when Mid Ulster's 81 per cent was the highest in the UK - but believes it will be comparatively high.
"It will be high because of the determination of the nationalist electorate not to let Nigel Lutton [Single Unionist] in," Feeney says.
"There is no way they are going to have a unionist representing them in that area because they still remember Willie McCrea."
The Irish News columnist describes swathes of the constituency as "hardline republican" and believes Sinn Fein would poll well whoever its candidate is.
"They are not so much voting for Francie Molloy, who is something of a charisma-free zone, but are voting against the unionist candidate," he says.
The polarisation of the electorate does not bode well for SDLP candidate Patsy McGlone, adds Feeney, who is already battling against his party's steady decline.
"There's no doubt Patsy will be squeezed as a result of unionism's agreed candidate.
"He's a good candidate who has worked on the ground for many years but I can't see where he'll draw any more votes from."
McGlone himself is confident that the SDLP's overall vote will increase.
He claims the mood on the doorsteps is one of frustration with Stormont's ruling parties.
"People are saying to me that they are fed-up with silly sham fights," he told The Irish News.
"They believe politicians should focus on the future and securing stability for our young people."
Despite Sinn Fein's abstentionist stance, Francie Molloy maintains he can still give the people of Mid Ulster representation, insisting his party has a "significant presence" at Westminster despite not taking its seats.
"Everyone knows that most of the work in politics goes on out-side the chamber so we can still be effective," he says.
For Molloy, McGlone and Alliance candidate Eric Bullick, the important issues in Mid Ulster are employment, emigration and planning.
What matters to agreed unionist candidate Nigel Lutton, beyond criticising Sinn Fein, is unclear, as he has thus far made few public appearances.
Nevertheless, Lutton's selection has provided an otherwise low-key by-election with both controversy and an element of political intrigue.
The son of a murdered RUC reservist, it was claimed by DUP MP David Simpson under privilege in the House of Commons that Francie Molloy had a role in the 1979 killing.
Molloy categorically denies the allegation and challenges the Upper Bann representative to repeat it outside the legal protection of parliament.
Lutton's candidacy also provides a talking point as it is seen by some as another move towards unionist unity, a claim rejected by Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt.
Brian Feeney believes Nesbitt's acquiescence to an agreed candidate was likely prompted by the possibility of a trouncing at the polls for the UUP.
"The unionist numbers are not there so I suspect Mike Nesbitt agreed to a joint unionist candidate because the last time the UUP vote was around 10 per cent," he says.
"This time Nesbitt thought he may not fare well in DUP territory - the result could've been so bad that he opted for someone to represent unionism rather than be humiliated."
The winner of next Thursday's by-election may be predetermined but it is how the losing candidates perform that will make the most interesting reading.