FIANNA Fail celebrated the party's resurgence as Cork South Central, Ireland's self-styled 'Constituency of Death,' proved fatal for Coalition re-election hopes.
Both Labour and Fine Gael lost TDs as Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who held his seat despite his vote dropping by 1,500, warned there could be "no hiding" from the reality of a hugely disappointing election for the Government parties.
In a signal of Coalition woes, Mr Coveney was pushed into fourth place in the constituency as Sinn Fein's Councillor Donnchadh O'Laoghaire took the third seat.
"I don't get the sense that there is going to be any leadership challenge in Fine Gael," Mr Coveney said.
"We will win in or around 50 seats and we will be the largest party. Enda Kenny will be the leader of the largest party."
"I don't get the sense that there is any panic or anything like that."
"But the truth is that we did not get our message across in this campaign like we should have. We certainly did not win the argument."
"This has been a very tough couple of days for Fine Gael but I can assure you all here today that Fine Gael will bounce back."
"The next Government will certainly have wind in their sails - there is no doubt about that."
But he admitted that, if a stable Government cannot be formed, another general election may be on the cards.
"There may be a scenario where the people are asked to reconsider. If a Government cannot be put together, that is what will happen."
High-profile Fine Gael backbench TD Jerry Buttimer lost his seat as did Labour TD and Oireachtas banking inquiry chairman, Ciaran Lynch.
Mr Buttimer said he believed Fine Gael should now go into Opposition and that the onus for forming the next Government should rest with Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and independents.
"I'm trying to be philosophical about it. But it is very disappointing. Losing my Bishopstown base to Cork North Central was a bridge too far really. To quote Van Morrison, 'My mother told me there'll be days like this.' What else can you say?"
Labour suffered the indignity of seeing the Green Party candidate overtake Mr Lynch for elimination on the ninth count.
Fianna Fail celebrated as leader Michael Martin and Opposition finance spokesman, Michael McGrath, were both elected on the first count with huge votes. Sinn Fein made a major breakthrough with the election of newcomer Councillor Donnchadh O'Laoghaire.
"This is an historic day for Sinn Fein in Cork and Ireland. This is a day the party has been building towards for many, many years," Councillor O'Laoghaire said.
Mr Martin hailed the Fianna Fail election campaign as "absolutely incredible."
He confirmed his party will now nominate him for Taoiseach when the Dail resumes - but he refused to be drawn on the possibility of any deal with Fine Gael.
"This was a great election for Fianna Fail. Our message resonated with people and I think people reacted to the hard-work we put in to renewing and rebuilding the party over the past five years," he added.
"We will have to wait and see what happens. But this was a very good day for Fianna Fail."
"It is too early to talk about that (deal with Fine Gael)," he said.
"What I can say is that Michael Martin has always put the country first."
"The country will always be first as far as Michael Martin is concerned. We proved that in 2009 when we took decisions that were electorally and politically costly but in terms of the country they were the right things to do."
"That has happened in the past and that is what is going to happen again. The country comes first in all our deliberations in this regard," Mr Martin said.