No matter what happens in the coming days, the first sitting of the 33rd Dáil will take place next Thursday. By that stage, Mary Lou McDonald will hope to have garnered more support than any party leader for the eventual Dáil vote to elect a Taoiseach.
She will also hope she has the numbers to form a government. A Dáil majority of 80 without either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael is nearly impossible. But Sinn Féin is very serious about trying to make it happen.
"The aim here is to form a government," said a senior party figure last night. "Everyone is exhausted. A lot of people we want to talk to are still caught up in counts. But what we're saying publicly is what we're saying privately."
Since Sunday, Ms McDonald has reached out to the leadership of the Green Party, the Social Democrats, People Before Profit and Labour. The Greens are coy but Eamon Ryan is due to meet Ms McDonald as early as tomorrow. The SocDems are open to talks as well, but Labour says it has no mandate to go into government and is uneasy about Sinn Féin anyway.
"Brendan Howlin's view is that a stable government requires two of the three largest parties," said a Labour source.
People Before Profit TDs Richard Boyd Barrett and Gino Kenny both confirmed they would be inclined to support Ms McDonald in a vote for Taoiseach. "A no-brainer," said Mr Kenny.
Rise TD Paul Murphy is also available for talks and anxious to form a left-wing government.
Talks will kick off tomorrow and are likely to intensify as we head towards the weekend. "I think everyone is still weighing up the numbers and people are fairly exhausted," said a second senior Sinn Féin figure. "We're looking to meet in [the] next few days when people know where they stand."
As the lengthy counts progressed yesterday, the outlook for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael became increasingly darker than was first apparent when the boxes were opened on Sunday. It was a terrible day two for Fianna Fáil, with several high-profile casualties as the day progressed. The expectation that Fianna Fáil would comfortably win more than 40 seats was shattered.
And the growing view among the Soldiers of Destiny was that Sinn Féin should be allowed to try to form a government.
The momentum has unquestionably shifted towards Ms McDonald, even more so than was the case on Sunday.
Even her former colleague, Peadar Tóibín, who left Sinn Féin in acrimonious circumstances in 2018, said he wanted to hold talks with Sinn Féin - and Fianna Fáil - about forming a government with a view to pitching for the role of transport minister. Ambitious, perhaps, but he is conscious of where the political sands have now shifted. Mr Tóibín has reached out to a number of Independent TDs about forming a bloc.
"I would be open to talking to Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil about a future government," he said. "I think it's very relevant to both rural and urban areas. It is one of those spaces where you can make a serious difference.
"So I would talk to them with regards to the desire for a pitch for minister of transport."
Mr Tóibín was one of a number of incumbent TDs across the country fearing for his seat amid the Sinn Féin surge. In the end, he was elected in Meath West along with new Sinn Féin TD Johnny Guirke, a former ESB worker who lost his local authority seat last May. He was one of four Sinn Féin TDs elected who lost their council seats last year.
The party also had a number of TDs elected who it would never have imagined would be in the running, including Patricia Ryan in Kildare South who went on holiday during the campaign. There was also the remarkable and stunning success of Violet-Anne Wynne, a mother of five and a psychology graduate from Trinity, who secured a seat in Clare having polled just over 300 votes in last year's local elections. All these new TDs will bring their own challenges in the months and years ahead as the party seeks to maintain discipline and keep all of its deputies on message. It's a challenge that faces all parties that undergo massive growth at rapid pace.
More than half a dozen of the new intake who were contacted yesterday were all full of praise for the campaign and the role of Ms McDonald. "Mary Lou was a big winner on the doors," said Louth TD Ruairí Ó Murchú, a former party staffer in Leinster House who worked with outgoing TD Jonathan O'Brien.
They were also on message when it comes to the process of forming a government.
"Mary Lou McDonald has outlined Sinn Féin's position and I support it entirely - the parties need to be realistic in relation to this," said Meath East TD Darren O'Rourke.
Chris Andrews, the former Fianna Fáil TD who took a Dáil seat in Dublin Bay South for Sinn Féin, said: "I would hope that we will do what was said to me by all the people that voted for me in the inner city and right across the constituency.
"They want a left-of-centre government and I think they do not want to see Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael back in government."
But there was also some acknowledgement of the political reality that now faces Sinn Féin if it does want to go into government. If Fianna Fáil moves on key issues - with a rent freeze, the pension age and preparations for a Border poll top of Sinn Féin's agenda - then there may be grounds for talks.
"We're in this to make real change and if another political party says they will implement real change we are proposing it would be our obligation to deliver that. But are they willing to change tack and tackle the hard issues like health and education, all of those issues that are really core to us?" asked Dublin West TD Paul Donnelly.
Kerry TD Pa Daly, who succeeds former IRA prisoner Martin Ferris, said of a possible coalition deal with Fianna Fáil: "It wouldn't be my first preference, but it would be a numbers game."
He said Ms McDonald would prefer to form a government without the Civil War parties, but admitted she was just as aware of the numbers game as he was. "She's on top of her game so she does know that," he added.