Cork East constituency poll-topper Pat Buckley turns 51 today — the birthday celebrations might be a bit lost in the election cheer though.
Buckley, from Midleton, topped the poll with an impressive 12,587 first preferences, which got him elected on the first count as the quota was 10,909.
A large number of Sinn Féin supporters gathered in the count centre at Mallow GAA Club shortly before 5pm and well ahead of the announcement that he was first past the post.
Holding tricolours and waving party flags, they greeted him with huge cheers. First he hugged Melissa Mullane, a staunch supporter who lost her county council seat in Mallow for the party during their disastrous showing in the last local elections.
Then followed many more hugs from Buckley for the party faithful.
“Well done to ye all,” he said giving them a big thumbs-up.
He said he isn't surprised by his huge vote: “We were knocking on the doors every single weekend from the last general election. In more recent times we were getting really positive vibes on the doorstep.
Buckley said he is “physically and mentally exhausted” after all the campaigning.
“I really got a shock when I arrived here (at the count centre) because there were so many of my supporters here,” he said.
“Okay, I'm the captain but you can't do it without the team and they were brilliant,” Buckley added.
Left in his wake to bite their fingernails for the rest of the night were four possibles for the remaining three seats, They were outgoing TDs Sean Sherlock (Lab), David Stanton, a junior minister (FG) and Kevin O'Keeffe (FF). The fourth was one of the youngest candidates in the country, James O'Connor (FF), a 22-year-old studying at Trinity College, Dublin.
All four were fairly even on votes.
The general perception among the political pundits was that O'Connor and Stanton had geography on their side and could expect to get boosts from those likely to be eliminated as the night wore on.
O'Connor was likely to benefit from the elimination of Mary Linehan-Foley. Although she was running as NP she is a former member of FF. Also, she lives only a few miles away from the young man.
Stanton, in the meantime, was likely to receive a lift when his FG running mate, Pa O'Driscoll, was eliminated.
If both their lifts came to pass then it left the last seat to be fought out between two political dynasties — Sherlock and O'Keeffe.
Kevin's father, Ned served in the Dáil from 1982 to 2011. Sean's father, the late Joe Sherlock, served a number of terms in the 80s and 90s and into the early 2000s.
“We're in a dog fight, there's no doubt about that. I just can't call it at the moment. But we're still in the fight and will wait and see,” he said.
Sherlock's vote had been eaten into by Buckley as people now viewed SF as the only real 'left' alternative to the more right-wing FF and FG.
Meanwhile, a number of relatives and friends of Kevin O'Keeffe admitted they were concerned that he was "in a spot", a place he was not used to.
A number of traditional Fianna Fáil voters in what would have been regarded as his fortresses in the towns of Fermoy and Mitchelstown had shifted their allegiance to Buckley, O'Keeffe was also being squeezed by O'Connor, who while living in the south of the constituency in Killeagh, has a number of relatives with North Cork connections and he certainly hoovered up votes in that region.