A two-year old boy has met his hero who found him wandering along a roadway in the early hours of the morning after the toddler walked out of his home while his family slept upstairs.
Theo Costelloe, two, gave student teacher James Ryan a high five after meeting up with him along with his mother Christine and father Keif today.
Theo climbed out of his cot at 2am last Wednesday, walked down his stairs and managed to open his front door before being found about a mile away by James, 21.
The intrepid toddler was clutching his baby sister's pink sleep blanket and was only wearing a blue one-piece sleep suit when he was found "shivering" by gallant James.
'When the gardaí pulled up he hid between my legs.'
Kilkenny native James Ryan, who is studying Irish and French in University of Limerick, was walking home from his nightclub job when he saw Theo crossing the Dublin Road in the dead of night.
The modest hero was hailed "a legend" by the boy's dad Keif Wynne.
James said: "He's the nicest child. To be honest he was happy out. He wasn't fazed at all. He was a little nervous after (I) first met him, but then after a few seconds he was grand. When the gardaí pulled up he hid between my legs."
"It's lovely to meet the family. Theo is a lovely child, absolutely not a bother on him. It's lovely to finally meet them all."
Theo and his parents were thrilled to meet the man who played a key role in returning their son to them, after the boy went on a lonely walk crossing a main road and along several routes in the dark.
"When the gardaí pulled up, I think he got a shock by all the people turning up, and he hid in behind my leg. Within five minutes he was laughing and chatting away.
"He was saying 'Nana' and stuff like that. I thought he was staying at his granny's house because he was saying 'Nana' over and over, and I thought maybe something had happened to his granny. So I tried to walk him back towards the house and he seemed like he knew where he was going to be honest. So, he more or less led me to where he was going."
'He was happy out…but then he started to shiver'
"He crossed over from the left hand side (of the Dublin Road) and he went down along the right hand side and I saw him. I'd say I saw him about 100 metres away and I said to myself, 'Is that a child?' because he was definitely on his own so I ran down the road after him."
James added that Theo "wasn't scared in the slightest bit".
"He was happy out doing what he was doing, except then he started to shiver so I gave him my t-shirt. He had the blanket on around him too."
'The right man found him'
Proud dad Keif, 35, praised James for his gallantry: "Fair play to him. He's an absolute legend. You can tell he's a gentleman. The right man found him, being honest. The right man did find him. It could have ended so nasty."
"I'm delighted because it could have ended (so badly). It's not even what happened -- it's what could have happened. It could have ended so much worse. Like I say, the right man found him. He's an absolute legend, a proper gent. I hope he gets the credit he deserves."
Looking at Theo, he added: "Just look at him. He went from such a tiny child and now look at him...he's just a lunatic running everywhere. He's always been a small bit shy, but obviously he's pushing the boundaries now. We've an interesting couple of years ahead of us."
Asked if the family would be investing in a new bolt lock, Keif joked: "Don't mind buying a new lock, we'll be buying a new door. We'll have to double lock it.
"We were talking earlier about everything we have to change because we have to be 100% paranoid now to cover all bases. We've three of them, not just him, to worry about."
"He's a great kid though, a great kid. He's just borrowing up and getting bould," he said with a proud smile.
'Thanks very much James, for everything'
Mum Christine, who was panic-stricken when gardaí called to her home at Aspen Gardens, Limerick, to inform her that Theo had been found a mile away, threw her arms around James when they met for the first time since the drama unfolded last Wednesday.
"Thanks very much James, for everything," she said.
James had flagged down taxi driver, Noel Flanagan, who waited with him and Theo until gardaí arrived.
"I just want to thank him for everything he did..for the t-shirt, and for following Theo and waiting with him until he got the taxi driver to pull over. Thanks to the taxi driver who had a phone, and like James, who just waited for the gardaí to arrive and didn't just walk on by."
James added: "Noel deserves praise too because he was half of it too."
He said: "I hailed a taxi and Noel stopped. Theo was cold so we just sat into the front seat. It turned out I knew Noel because he has dropped me home from work once or twice."
James said his parents, Joan and Redmond, were very proud of him and were taking calls from radio stations for the last few days.
"The family were fairly shocked as well. Dad is a guard and mam is a teacher, so they've been on the radio chatting away about it too."
After giving his hero a high five, little Theo presented James with a 'thank you' card and returned the t-shirt he had given him to wear on his first unforgettable trip away from home alone.
* All pictures: Press 22