FIANNA Fail is fighting for two seats in Taoiseach Brian Cowen's home constituency.
But the party appears destined to lose a seat to Sinn Fein, which is on track to send at least 13 TDs to the 31st Dail.
A recount was ordered in Laois-Offaly last night after a Fine Gael candidate made the demand over 26 votes.
Liam Quinn (23) requested the recount after the 10th count left him neck-and-neck with Fianna Fail's John Moloney. The young teacher's chances of snatching a seat for Fine Gael are slim -- a point which was even conceded by the party's Charlie Flanagan, who was elected on the eighth count.
Mr Flanagan was the first candidate to reach the quota -- and Brian Cowen's brother, Barry, was one of the first to shake his hand.
Mr Flanagan had more than 1,000 votes to spare on 13,531 yesterday afternoon.
He said it was "like old times" for Fine Gael as he watched party activists shed tears at his election.
Fine Gael was expected to win a second seat with Marcella Corcoran Kennedy before the recount. But a third, while mathematically possible, appears overly optimistic.
"I would have liked to win three seats in Laois-Offaly," Mr Flanagan told the Irish Independent after he was elected. But he admitted two seats was a more "likely scenario".
Paying tribute to the outgoing Taoiseach, Mr Flanagan said he said he believed Brian Cowen had made an "immense contribution" to the constituency -- and had kept doing so for a quarter of a century.
It appeared increasingly unlikely that a second, let alone a third, candidate would be elected last night as the recount was announced.
Sinn Fein's Brian Stanley was upbeat about his chances of being elected -- and party activists said Gerry Adams was en route to Tullamore.
One of the surprises of the election in the constituency so far was the performance of Independent John Leahy, a first-time Dail candidate.
The full-time GAA coach and local councillor from Kilcormac polled an impressive 4882 first preference votes.
If Brian Stanley, Barry Cowen and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy take three seats as expected, the final seat will be a dogfight between the three main parties.
Irish Independent Supplement