This time last year Sinn Fein was still licking its wounds from a dismal local and European election campaign and trying to figure it out where it all went wrong.
The party lost nearly half of its local authority seats - 78 in total - and all but one of its MEPs in the South. The disastrous result was a wake-up call for a party that was suddenly staring into an uncertain future and questions about whether Mary Lou McDonald was the right choice to succeed Gerry Adams.
Twelve months later, all has changed. Sinn Fein is now the second largest political party in the Dail and the main Opposition party, leading to the sort of media exposure that will make more of its TDs household names.
"What we learnt in 2019 is that people want opposition that is responsible and credible and not just shouting about things, that only gets you so far," said a senior party figure of Sinn Fein's tactics and how they have shifted since that electoral setback.
That political maturity was evident during the Barry Cowen saga last month. Sinn Fein refrained from its usual immediate calls for a head, instead probing the issue and watching as Taoiseach Micheal Martin decided himself that his agriculture minister had to go. "We handled that very appropriately, we gave him [Cowen] a sufficient amount of time to try and clarify the matters, instead of saying on day one a head has to roll," the senior party figure said.
Sinn Fein has watched aghast and probably delighted at the succession of Government cock-ups that have undermined the coalition over the past six weeks, from the ministerial appointments to top-ups for super juniors, to u-turns and mixed messaging that has exposed divisions at the heart of the coalition.
First impressions count, and the new Government hasn't made a great one on the public, some of whom are still wondering why Leo Varadkar isn't Taoiseach and Simon Harris isn't health minister.
Mr Varadkar's various pronouncements and the evident strain it is putting on relations with Fianna Fail are attracting more and more scrutiny. "The media attention on Leo and Micheal - it takes the spotlight away from us," a second senior Sinn Fein figure conceded. A party staffer was more blunt about the new coalition: "It's been a train wreck. We've had to do f**k all."
New spokespeople are adjusting to their briefs with TDs like Claire Kerrane in social welfare and Mairead Farrell in public expenditure highlighted internally as having performed well. The party is also ramping up its staffing, the influx of new TDs leading to a raft of new parliamentary assistants and backroom operatives.
Some internal reorganisation has seen party general secretary Dawn Doyle become McDonald's chief of staff, with Sinn Fein's political director in the 26 counties Ken O'Connell replacing Doyle until an election for the position can be held at the next ard fheis.
Tentative planning for a scaled-down one-day event subject to public health restrictions in the spring of next year is under way.
"Even on a bad day, we'd have 800 delegates but the rules don't cater for that at the moment," a source said. A curtailed think-in in September is also being mooted.
Over the summer recess, Sinn Fein has put out a steady stream of policy documents and legislation. Behind the launch of each is a social media strategy that aims to spread as much information about the measures to as many people as possible across the various platforms. Sinn Fein Online Supporters, a recruitment tool for new members, encourages people to be "part of the digital rising".
"We're an activist party and we can mobilise far more people online," said a senior source. "Every Sinn Fein Online Supporter's role is to promote and support that policy among their friends. The spread and reach of social media isn't just a post if 10,000 followers are Sinn Féin supporters and activists and we ask them to spread the message."
A study of the General Election campaign in February found Sinn Fein had around 10 times more engagement on Facebook than any other party in the State.
The study by academics Kirsty Park and Jane Suiter found that between January 14 and February 8, Sinn Fein had more than 567,000 interactions or responses, compared to 49,358 for Fianna Fail and 55,152 for Fine Gael.
Unsurprisingly, the study found most posts were on the topic of "change" - the sort of nebulous word repeated ad nauseam by Sinn Fein reps that has been criticised by other parties but clearly worked to some degree based on the election results.
The online operation is the envy of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael who are frequent targets of criticism from thousands of supporters of Mary Lou McDonald's party.
But this strong social media presence brings significant drawbacks, not least the coarsening of debate and the increased proliferation of abuse by Sinn Fein supporters.
Last week, a Sinn Fein member in Wexford resigned from the party after he was exposed as having used pseudonyms to send derogatory messages to Fianna Fáil senator Thomas Byrne, local businessman Derek Webb as well as abuse to model Claudine Keane. In a statement to the Irish Times, Derek Heffernan apologised for his actions. Sinn Féin apologised to Mr Webb, while Eoin O Broin said "good riddance" to Heffernan.
One senior Sinn Fein source said that had he not resigned, the culprit would have been "kicked out".
This story prompted the party's opponents to call for Sinn Fein to get tough on the so-called 'Shinnerbots' - a loosely-applied term to anyone with sympathies to the party who tends to be active, vocal and sometimes abusive and nasty to others on social media.
Breege Quinn, who blames an IRA gang for the murder of her son Paul in 2007, said the Wexford issue was "the tip of the iceberg" and she was regularly targeted by trolls with affiliations to the party.
Sinn Fein has denied it is behind or orchestrating a coordinated campaign against people who are critical of the party and says its public representatives have encountered just as much abuse. Sinn Fein Senator Fintan Warfield was recently forced to report a spate of homophobic and threatening messages to An Garda Siochana.
"There is an accusation that the party is involved in an organised and orchestrated campaign of online hate and aggression and bullying," said one of the senior party figures. "That is not true."
The party believes it has sufficient guidelines in place and swift action is taken against any member found to be in breach of them.
"We do everything in our power to ensure people stick to those guidelines but there is a human behind every button on a phone and there is no comprehending what people say at the end," said a Sinn Fein source who deals with many of these issues.
"Our people come under vicious attack as well, but we don't condone it. If people are at it, we will get rid of them."
But Sinn Fein's disciplinary structures are not that clear cut. While they have been enhanced in recent years owing to concerns about the legality of the disciplinary structures they replaced, the recent case of South Dublin councillor Paddy Holohan shows it is not a zero tolerance approach.
He was suspended from the party earlier this year following derogatory comments about women and Leo Varadkar. After he was readmitted, his local organisation tried to nominate him for the mayoralty of south Dublin.
McDonald and senior party figures like local TD O Broin were furious when this happened and the organisation was stood down, pending an ongoing review. But as with any party, internal wrangling is not a good look.
Nor are the rather convoluted stances on certain foreign policy matters. Sinn Fein elected representatives have frequently defended the increasingly authoritarian regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela,
The party is also less critical than others of China's actions in Hong Kong, with the reported endorsement by deputy leader Michelle O'Neill of controversial new security laws in the territory. Subsequent comments from O'Neill and the North's First Minister Arlene Foster did not exactly clarify matters.
It has also emerged that Sinn Fein MEP Chris MacManus abstained on a European Parliament vote condemning what has happened in Hong Kong in recent months over concerns about China's sovereignty and the EU's "colonial mindset".
Last year, the Chinese ambassador in Dublin told Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe of "violent crimes by Hong Kong rioters". Mr Crowe is reported to have told the ambassador he hoped the former British colony would "get back to the right track".
Sinn Fein's approach to Hong Kong is not a vote-loser or a vote-winner but it is strange and helps critics - like Leo Varadkar - contend that it is more evidence of why Sinn Fein is not a normal party. The Tanaiste was on the receiving end of a backlash from all sides last week after he tweeted a 10-day-old clip of Fine Gael senator Barry Ward hitting back at criticism from Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan that he was a "white, middle-class man".
"If you are white, male or even worse, middle-class, Sinn Féin doesn't want you. So much for an 'Ireland of equals'," Mr Varadkar wrote to widespread and justified derision. His attempt at clarifying the matter in another tweet yesterday was an admission of a misstep with his original remarks.
But Sinn Fein cannot solely rely on unforced errors by the Government to ensure that it, as one senior party operative put it, becomes "the best opposition in the world".