In 2015, a tight race saw the UUP’s Danny Kinahan pip the DUP’s William McCrea to the Westminster post in South Antrim, and become, alongside Tom Elliott in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, the first UUP MP elected since 2005.
Back then, just 949 votes separated the two parties in the hard-fought campaign, with Mr Kinahan claiming 11,942 votes, equivalent to 32.7%, and Rev McCrea securing 10,993 votes, a 30.1% share.
With Rev McCrea out of the running this year, the DUP is hoping that MLA Paul Girvan will oust the first cousin of singer Chris de Burgh and return the seat to them.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin is pinning its hopes on its National Chairperson and South Antrim MLA Declan Kearney, who is riding high after his success in March, which saw him top the poll in the race to Stormont.
Two years ago, the senior Republican was left trailing in the wake of the unionist frontrunners with 4,699 votes, less than half the number hooked by Mr Kinahan. Could the rejuvenated Sinn Fein vote which saw him triumph two months ago see him speed first past the post this time?
Representing the Alliance Party will be Neil Kelly, a Councillor at Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and former nurse. However, after securing less than a third of the votes of Mr Kinahan in 2015, he and his team will have to hit the doorsteps hard in order to take the edge off the larger parties’ big name candidates.
Mr Kelly’s fellow Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Roisin Lynch will represent the SDLP in the Westminster election battle. However, like Mr Kelly, she will have to consolidate her influence considerably if she is to steal the bigger parties’ thunder, after gaining just 8.2% of the vote in 2015.
Belfast Telegraph Digital