Key towns that will signal outcome of General Election 2016
Published 27/02/2016 | 02:30
Armchair guide to the count
Killarney: The Kerry town and its east Kerry hinterland have no local candidate. The voters' choice for the newly merged unitary five-seat Kerry will tell a lot nationally. The Healy-Rae brothers can both win seats. But will Labour's Arthur Spring be defeated? Can Sinn Féin's Martin Ferris overcome campaign problems? Will Fine Gael keep two seats?
Letterkenny: The focal point of the newly merged five-seat Donegal. Is Sinn Féin set to keep its two outgoing TDs? Is Fianna Fáil set to return two deputies? Is one Fine Gael seat safe - or will the party repeat Fianna Fáil's error in 2011 and see two candidates drag each other down?
Ennis: Four-seat Clare offers hope of a second seat to Fianna Fáil. But vote management will be crucial. If Fine Gael can hold its two seats, it would be a source of hope. Can one or two Independents provide a surprise?
Naas: The Coalition had hoped to hold three seats in four-seat Kildare North. Now, it seems likely that Fianna Fáil will claw back one seat. Who will lose: one of the Fine Gael duo or Labour? The extent of Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy's vote will be watched closely.
Bray: Renua is depending on deputy leader Billy Timmins to hold his seat. Labour's Anne Ferris looks doomed. Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil both have high hopes for this constituency.
Dark horses to surprise at finish line
As with every election, there are some things the best political minds in the country cannot predict.
Candidates on long odds will come from the back of the pack in the final furlong to take first place.
There are few contenders who were relative unknowns this time five years ago but are expected to compete when the ballots are counted today.
Former Dublin Lord Mayor and star of the Garth Brooks concert fiasco Christy Burke is expected to do well in Dublin Central. But Social Democrat newcomer Gary Gannon could also exceed expectations.
Also keep an eye on Anti-Austerity Alliance People Before Profit's Bríd Smith in Dublin South Central as she is likely to capitalise on Labour's losses in the area.
Renua candidate John Leahy could also pull a strong vote in Offaly.
Independent councillor candidate Sean Canney has strong support in Galway East and might also surprise.
Experienced 'Tallymen' keep keen eye on ballots
The 'Tallymen' have long been an institution at lrish election counts.
Their work helps us understand the complex workings of proportional representation made more complicated by having three, four and five-seat constituencies.
Tallymen, and indeed Tallywomen, are usually experienced people from each of the main parties who watch closely as ballot papers are being sorted and counted. They focus on and note first, second, third and fourth preferences to discern the pattern of later counts. Their work is often spot-on.
Spare a thought for the 400 unlucky candidates
For the 158 candidates who successfully contest the election, there are almost 400 hopefuls who will be going home empty handed.
Those who fail to make it to Leinster House will have either spent their hard-earned money on their campaign - or else have borrowed heavily to pay the costs.
The election will also bring to an end long careers in national politics.
TDs who spent the majority of their adult life in the Dáil will be joining the dole queue, as a new batch of politicians become parliamentarians.