The contest to become the first directly-elected mayor in Ireland is now a two-horse race between independent candidates.

The frontrunner John Moran is leading the charge by a margin of 5,605 votes ahead of Helen O’Donnell in the landmark election.

It will come down to the distribution of Dee Ryan’s votes after the Fianna Fail candidate was eliminated in the 11th count.

A total of 18,875 votes are to be distributed across both candidates.

Earlier, Fine Gael’s Daniel Butler and Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan were eliminated.

The second day of counting got under way on Tuesday morning, with the winning candidate set to be confirmed later.

Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan is eliminated from the count at Limerick Racecourse (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Moran received a total of 18,308 first preference votes in the first count, and was followed in second place by Ms O’Donnell who received 12,903 votes.

All the candidates fell well short of the 39,873 quota.

Ms Ryan said: “I am very proud of my husband, my friends and everyone who rode in and got involved. We had a ball and couldn’t have wished for a better campaign. I’m really encouraged by the fantastic welcome that I got from the people of Limerick.

“It was an honour to get out and meet people. Fair play to the independent candidates, they ran excellent campaigns.

“I’ve no doubt that Limerick will choose the right mayor. I look forward to getting behind and supporting the right mayor when they are announced. I am very proud.”

Mr Butler said: “You go into an election to win it and I was in it to win it.

“There was a lot against us. We came in very late, we came in in the middle of a change of leadership in the Fine Gael party and my director of elections lost his mother during it. Our house was threatened, and the safety of our family was threatened and compromised during the election.

“But we fought on and fought a very good campaign, and I think the vote that I got is reflective of the energy and innovation that I fought in the campaign.

“I fought a very high-calibre campaign and delivered a lot in a short period of time.”

Earlier, Mr Quinlivan said: “It’s a long count. The count is progressing, and I want to thank everybody who came out and voted for myself.

Fine Gael Candidate Daniel Butler (Niall Carson/PA)

“I really appreciate every single person who took time to come out, but also to thank those people who engaged in the mayoral campaign in the last number of weeks.

“I think it was a really positive campaign. One of the most positive campaigns we have been involved in.

“All the candidates did themselves good. So I want to wish whoever wins all the best for the role.

“It’s a really positive thing for Limerick, and they (winner) will have my full support going forward if they do things that are positive and good and in the best interests of Limerick. If they don’t do that, I will be the first person to hold them to account.

“I want to thank those who campaigned with me and my family and my wife, who has been brilliant.”

Asked about Sinn Fein’s overall performance in the local and European elections, the Limerick TD said the party will learn from what went wrong.

“We went into this campaign (in Limerick) with three local councillors and came out with three local councillors, we lost one and then gained one,” he said.

“We had ambitions to get more, we didn’t get there. That’s the nature of politics. There’s swings and roundabouts.

“We will learn from what went wrong and what went right in some cases. We will sit down and then move forward and talk to our people and I will be out knocking doors.

“I won’t just be talking to people, I will be listening to what they say to me on the doors.”

For the first time ever, Irish citizens will select the first directly-elected mayor, in what is seen as a test case for the rest of the state.

A total of 15 candidates ran for the mayor’s seat.

Dozens of staff are counting the votes at Limerick Racecourse, which is being used as a count centre.

Also attending Tuesday’s count is Mr Moran’s three-year-old dog, Anrai.