A ten-year-old boy has been hailed as a hero after clinging onto a moving SUV to rescue his sister from a convicted sex offender.
The criminal, who was on bail for robbery, attempted to abduct the girl (12) on the side of a country road near the village of Cullahill in Laois.
She was playing with her two brothers near their home when the man stopped and asked for directions to the local priest's house.
He then jumped from the stolen vehicle and grabbed the girl.
But her younger brother lunged through the driver's window at the would-be kidnapper punching him as the jeep began to drive away.
The brave boy distracted the driver long enough so that his sister could jump from the moving vehicle.
The father of the children said the family were too shocked to talk about the incident last night but told the Irish Independent that he was "extremely proud" of his 10-year-old son.
Gardaí from three counties were involved in a manhunt that was launched after the incident on Wednesday morning and concluded just over 24 hours later with an arrest.
The 34-year-old suspect is a convicted child sex offender but is not on the sex offenders list as the offence dates back to the 1990s.
He is well-known to gardaí, particularly for robbing priests' houses and church poor boxes and is described as "very volatile and dangerous". He has a string of convictions and is currently before the courts charged with a number of robbery offences.
He was jailed for four years in 2004 after pleading guilty to the abduction of a 14-year-old girl with whom he was said to have been having a relationship at the time.
It is believed that on Tuesday evening he stole the Nissan 4x4 SUV he was travelling in from a farmer in the village of Kilmacow in Co Kilkenny.
The next morning he turned up in Durrow, Co Laois, where he begged for money at the parochial house.
He then travelled on to the village of Cullahill, where he bought diesel at a filling station.
Gardaí are also investigating a report that the same man then broke into the local church and stole a collection box.
A short time later, around 11am he encountered the three children, who had a day off school.
Gardaí launched a major operation which was co-ordinated from Portlaoise by Chief Superintendent John Scanlan of the Laois/Offaly Division.
Around 3pm gardaí sent out an alert by the community text system warning parents of the danger.
It is understood that officers staked out a church near Castlecomer in Co Kilkenny and they arrested the man shortly before lunchtime yesterday.
He was still being held last night in Portlaoise garda station and is expected to appear in court today.
Gardaí hope that the three children will be able to help identify the suspect during an identity parade.