When hotelier Joe Dolan left his second-born son Andrew down to Carrick-on-Shannon train station to head off for a night out with old school friends in Mullingar he had words of caution.
He told Andrew: "Mind yourself Andy and be careful. You know there was a young man assaulted here in Carrick a few days ago. He is fighting for his life in Beaumont hospital."
Joe Dolan was thinking of 30-year-old Mark O'Shea from Longford town but resident in Killiashee who was the victim of a street assault in the Townparks area of Carrick-on-Shannon just a couple of hundred yards from the Dolan family's Bush Hotel -- around 3.30 am on December 18
Mr O'Shea was knocked to the ground with a punch and fell heavily. He worked as Deputy Manager with Boyle Sports in Roscommon town and it is understood that he and his wife Virgina were heading home after a Christmas party night in Carrick when the assault took place.
At the time of the assault on Mr O'Shea, Carrick was busy with hundreds of people leaving local nightspots.
Mr O'Shea is fighting for his life this weekend but Andrew Dolan, who as all young men tend to do, probably took the patriarchal benison of "mind yourself" with the pinch of salt, is now dead.
Like Mr O'Shea he was the victim of an assault.
In fact the circumstances are strikingly similar, a stark reminder of the random, pitiless violence that has now become a feature of life in our towns and cities.
Every weekend mothers and fathers around the country watch their children get ready to go out with fear and trepidation in their hearts. Sleep is uneasy until the sound of the key in the door signals that the kids have come home safe. That night, three days before Christmas Andrew Dolan didn't come home.
The assault against him was sustained.
CCTV footage shows that he was followed and as he backed away he was hit solidly to the head by two different men. There is also a young woman implicated in the assault against Andrew.
The Sunday Independent has learned that a friend of Andrew was also assaulted and had teeth broken in the unprovoked attack, which began after an incident or exchange in a takeaway.
Andrew was followed outside. He backed away a full 35 paces from the takeaway down Pearse Street in the centre of the town. He was hit at least three times, first by one man, then by a second man, then by the first man again. He fell heavily near a kerb at the junction of Church Avenue and Pearse Street.
The kerb at the point where Andrew fell is ramped with terracotta-coloured high-grip paving to make crossing the road easier for wheelchair users or those with reduced mobility. Andrew fell very hard.
By all accounts, Andrew was no troublemaker. He had gone to Mullingar that night to meet old friends from Wilson's Hospital School.
It was a rare opportunity to meet. Andrew had gone to NUI Galway to study biomedical science and had relished life in the city where he had made many new friends.
Many were in St Mary's Church in Carrick-on-Shannon on Friday to hear the officiating priest Fr Frank Garvey try to put into words the loss experienced by the Dolan family and to denounce the dramatic increase in street violence in all parts of the country.
"For Andrew's family, Christmas 2011 will forever be etched upon their hearts and minds not as a time of celebration but a time of keeping vigil and a time of ultimate heartbreak.
"On that night, Andrew set out with boyish enthusiasm and a smile on what would be his final earthly journey. As far as he was concerned it couldn't possibly be a better time of year for a journey. He had been looking forward so much to meeting up with his friends in Mullingar and joyfully celebrating with them the start of the Christmas season"
"And boy did he have much to celebrate. Returning home after celebrating his exams at NUI Galway he gave the thumbs up to his mum and dad when asked if the exams had gone well," Fr Garvey said.
He added that when Andrew left Carrick on the train for Mullingar with his Dad's words of caution still in his mind, the young student probably thought "you don't have to worry about me Dad, I'll be fine."
"Most young men feel they are invincible but there was nothing that could prepare his parents, Joe and Rosie, for the nightmarish experience that was to unfold that night and the days that followed Andrew's departure from home and the cruel senseless manner in which his precious life was snatched from him."
The officiating priest said that young life filled with hope and promise had been snatched away. He said that Andrew had so much to live for and now so many dreams had been left unfulfilled.
He described Andrew as a naturally quiet young man "who would not even raise his voice and who would go out of his way to shun any form of violence."
"How utterly unthinkable that he should be the victim of an unprovoked and vicious assault. . . so cruelly snatched away. It should not have happened. We are also aware that, sadly, it is happening now with alarming frequency in our country in recent years."
"All of us who have an innate respect for the precious fragile gift of life are asking why? Why do so many people think it is no longer safe to walk the towns and cities of our country especially at weekends? Why can't innocent young people go out and celebrate with their friends without the menace of unwarranted attack by those who seem intent on random acts of violence and mayhem," Fr Garvey asked.
Andrew lost his battle for life the evening of New Year's Day. As a secondary school student he had brought home an organ donation card but needed the signature of his parent as he was too young to sign on his own.
His mother Rosie was nonplussed by the request, perhaps because she could not bear to contemplate her beloved son dying before his time but on Andrew's insistence she signed.
Andrew's lungs, kidneys, liver and heart were donated. In death he gave life.
Two men aged 20 and 21 and a 19-year-old woman were arrested and questioned in relation to the incident. The two young men had waited at the scene. They are not known to gardai.
A file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Andrew's Aunt, Dr Heather Laird, a sister of Andrew's mother Rosie, spoke from the pulpit on behalf of the Dolan family.
She said in the course of a moving tribute to her nephew that when Andrew died nearly 10 days after the incident his family were aware, and had accepted, the medical evidence that there were only two outcomes from "that senseless act of violence".
"Andrews's death, while unimaginably painful, was perhaps the better of those two outcomes," she said.
"What happened that night may make us think of Ireland as a darker and more dangerous place, but in the days that followed we have constantly been reminded of the goodness of others," she said.