The seats are being filled thick and fast and one picture emerging is that Fianna Fáil is faring far worse than it could have ever feared.

Seats that it was in the mix for earlier in the day have slipped away, as Sinn Féin transfers trickle down to other left candidates.

Fianna Fáil now looks on course to win 39 seats that would be just two seats ahead of Sinn Féin.

Timmy Dooley in Clare, Lisa Chambers in Mayo, Fiona O'Loughlin in Kildare North, and Margaret Murphy O'Mahony in Cork South West are some of the big losses for the party.

In a sign of how the wind is now against the party, Malcolm Byrne who was elected in the Wexford by-election just four months ago has lost his seat.

The party has 22.2% of the first preference vote, that is 2% down on 2016. The party's problems by and large date back to that election.

Following the inconclusive result four years ago, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin entered into the confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael.

It was intended to last three years but was extended to take in a fourth budget due to Brexit uncertainty.

The deal always had its opponents in the party. But even those who hated it felt there was little alternative to it.

They sat it out in the big hope of rebuilding from the opposition benches, waiting to seize on the unpopularity of the outgoing minority administration.

But the electorate did not see a difference between the two.

From the start of the campaign, Fianna Fáil candidates on the ground felt that the party's association with Fine Gael was dragging it down.

They were taking the hit for Fine Gael's policy failures and there was no dividend in the argument that the party stayed in the arrangement in the national interest.

This was referenced by its finance spokesperson Michael McGrath, who said last night that the party had failed to have a "distinct identity" from that of Fine Gael.  

This evening, Barry Cowen said confidence and supply was "in the interest of the country but not in the interest of the Fianna Fáil party".

He said that if the party had been opportunistic it would have gone to the country far sooner "and we'd have a different result today".

There was always a theory in Fianna Fáil that went along the lines of: "If you go in to save a drowning man you might end up drowning yourself."

That sinking feeling is taking hold.