IT'S HARD to describe. But if you have ever experienced it, it is something that will stay with you for days after it happens.
Your county has survived in the hurling or football championship until late July or early August and you have, naively, dreamed of winning an All Ireland in either the first or third Sunday in September.
But it does not pan out like that. The referee blows the final whistle and your team has been beaten, usually by a Kerry or a Kilkenny. The championship dream is over for another wet winter. It's like "having your heart ripped out without surgery" to quote one manager in recent times.
Then it happens – just seconds after that final whistle, the sound system in Croke Park hollers it out.
It is called, 'May We Never Have To Say Goodbye'. It was the song composed by Shaun Davey for the opening ceremony of the 2003 Special Olympics in Croke Park.
When performed live seven years ago, in front a crowd that included names such as Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali, Davey's song was pretty amazing.
Since then, the GAA blasts the song out after every championship game in Croke Park and it has become the soundtrack for that 15-minute period when people pour out of the stadium. For many of them, defeat has left a sick feeling in their stomachs and Davey's song haunts them as it echoes through the streets of Drumcondra.
What makes it worse is that the safety net of the 'back door' has been removed by late July and early August. There is no second chance at that stage.
After 13 consecutive years in power, Fianna Fáil has also crossed a threshold whereby the party's TDs, whose seats are vulnerable, will have no second chance after the next general election.
After the 2007 general election, outgoing Fianna Fáil TDs Cecilia Keaveney, Martin Brady, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Denis O'Donovan, John Ellis and a 'Mr I Callely' had their bacon saved by the safety net of a place in the Seanad.
For various reasons, ranging from laziness to constituency boundary reviews, they all lost their Dáil seats. But all seven were spared an exit from the Leinster House bubble by securing seats in the Seanad.
After the next election, whenever that may be, the Fianna Fáil TDs who lose their seats face an appalling vista as the opportunity of a place in the Seanad simply will not be there.
After the previous three elections Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was able to hand out 11 jobs to statesmen such as Ivor Callely. Next time around that safety net will be gone.
If, as successive opinion polls and conventional wisdom suggests, Fine Gael and Labour go into coalition after the next election, then Taoiseach Kenny or Taoiseach Gilmore (or whoever holds the role) will select their own 11 nominees.
But it gets worse for Fianna Fáil. As well as the 11 Taoiseach's nominees, six members are elected by university graduates and a further 43 senators are elected to the five different Seanad vocational panels – cultural and educational (five senators), agricultural (11), labour (11), industrial and commercial (nine), and administrative (seven).
In simple terms, senators are voted onto the five panels by an electorate of about 1,100 people comprising members of the incoming Dáil, members of the outgoing Seanad, and members of city and county councils.
After the last general election, Fianna Fáil held 28 seats in the 60-seat Seanad chamber but this number will be slashed after the next general election.
As Fianna Fáil took a hammering in the June 2009 local elections, the party now has 218 city and county councillors compared to the 302 they had after the local elections in 2004. Fewer Fianna Fáil councillors will mean fewer votes for the party in the next Seanad elections.
The party has also been hovering below 25% in various opinion polls for the last two years, which is some distance from the 41.6% share of the vote they garnered in the 2007 general election. As multiple seat losses are expected, this will mean fewer Fianna Fáil TDs will be returned, meaning a further reduction in the party's Seanad election voting power.
It may be estimated that on the back of last year's local election meltdown and by looking at current opinion polls, Fianna Fáil is likely to be reduced to around 14 Seanad seats after the next general election.
So the reality is that many Fianna Fáil TDs who lose their seats in the next general election will inevitably face political oblivion as the Seanad safety net that caught people like Callely will have vanished.
At that stage, that song, 'May We Never Have To Say Goodbye' that bellows through the streets of Drumcondra at championship time may be ringing in the ears of a number of Fianna Fáil TDs at count centres across the 42 constituencies.
In the months ahead, Fianna Fáil TDs may get nervous when they come under pressure to support another swingeing austerity budget. At that point, the thought of falling off a political tightrope without a Seanad seat to break their fall may just make the prospect of 'doing a Mattie McGrath' to try and save their political skin a little more tempting.
Shane Coleman is away