Theo Costelloe gave student teacher James Ryan a high-five after meeting up with him along with his mother, Christine, and father, Keif.
Theo climbed out of his cot at 2am last Wednesday, walked down his stairs and managed to open his front door before being found a mile away by Mr Ryan.
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.
Kilkenny native James Ryan, who’s 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.
James said: “He’s the nicest child. To be honest he was happy out. He wasn’t phased at all. He was a little nervous after first meeting him, but then after a few seconds he was grand. When the gardaí pulled up he hid between my legs.”
Theo and his parents were thrilled to meet the man who saved their son from possible death or serious injury.
“When the gardaí pulled up . . . 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.”
Keif Wynne, 35, praised James for his gallantry: “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.”
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.”
Asked if the family would be investing in a new bolt lock, he joked: “Don’t mind buying a lock, we’ll be buying a new door.”
Christine, who was panic -stricken when gardaí called to her home at Aspen Gardens to inform her that Theo had been found a mile away, threw her arms around James as they met for the first time.
James had flagged down taxi driver, Noel Flanagan, who waited with him and Theo until gardaí arrived.
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.”
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 on his first unforgettable trip away from home alone.