THOUSANDS of Leaving Cert students today started the first day of their rest of their lives.
The long wait ended this morning as schools opened their doors to more than 57,000 pupils.
Niamh Flynn from Tullamore, Co Offaly was one of the first to get her results this morning, opting to collect them at the Post Office rather than her school.
The Sacred Heart student was stunned to be just 10 points short of the perfect score and was happy with her place at Trinity College.
"I'm delighted. I want to study law and business in Trinity," she told the Herald.
"I got an A2 in businesses and A1s in Irish, English, German, history, and biology."
She added: "I never thought I'd do that well. I'm really surprised."
Asked how she would be celebrating, the 18-year-old said: "I haven't actually heard from any of my friends yet so I don't know how they got on.
"But the plan is for the girls to come over to my house and we'll get ready and then go out."
At Muckross Park College in Donnybrook there were mostly jubilant scenes as students arrived around 9am.
Rachel McCoy (18) from Rathgar said: "I'm really happy. I got the requirement for music education in Trinity. I don't know yet if I got the place but fingers crossed I'll be okay.
"I was talking to my mum on the way down and she was really nervous for me. I'm going to ring her now because I'm really excited."
Anna Ryan (18) from Ranelagh secured enough points for international commerce at UCD.
"I'm over the moon after all the hard work but in many ways it's an anti-climax. I've been really nervous over the last few days but I'm just so glad it's over," she said.
Both girls said they were looking forward to celebrating tonight in Club 92.
Caroline Lundy, principal of Muckross, said: "We are very proud of our Leaving Cert students this morning. The results reflect the work of dedicated teachers and highly motivated students. This hard work has produced wonderful results."
Overall, examiners said today that evidence of so-called grade inflation in recent years has evaporated and scores stabilised this year.
Ten candidates shared the honours at the top of the results table, with a glowing eight A1s each.
At higher level, art remained the toughest subject in which to score an A, with only 5pc of candidates achieving the top mark, compared with 15.6pc in biology, 9.9pc in business and 11.5pc in history.
Of the 57,532 candidates who sat the exam this year, 37,955 did the traditional Leaving Cert, 16,386 the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme and 3,191 followed the alternative Leaving Certificate Applied course.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn sent congratulations to the students who, he said, had a host of opportunities at university, Institutes of Technology, colleges, post-Leaving Certificate courses and further education and training.
"Economic conditions are difficult, so it is more important than ever that our school leavers equip themselves with the skills needed for the 21st century," he said.
He appealed to students who were disappointed with their results to seriously consider repeating their exams.
"If this one year gives you the opportunity to attack the exams afresh and achieve the third level course you have your heart set on, then it is certainly worth it," he said.
Today's results bring huge disappointment for students who will miss out on a college place because they don't have a good enough grade in maths.
Almost 4,300 of the 51,991 Leaving Cert maths candidates failed, and are now automatically excluded from many science, engineering and technology third-level courses.
Most worrying among the fail statistics is the stubborn 10pc -- 3,712 -- of ordinary level students who got an E or below.
There is also much concern about how maths students at the upper end of the scale are doing.
In the first instance, this year saw a continuing decline in numbers taking higher-level maths -- down to 8,327 from over 10,000 a decade ago.
Less than 16pc of maths candidates are taking the subject at higher level, and employers say it should be 30pc.
On top of that, the proportion of higher-level students achieving an A1 dropped this year to 5.7pc, from 7.5pc last year.