An incredible story from Tallaght on the night Lidl was destroyed
“You're some dozy prick, driving in here at this hour.”
This man I’ve never laid eyes on before cuts me down before going in for a shovel at 3am to help dig me out. Literally.
This is the Tallaght I know...
Friday night in Christchurch and we're judging the strength of the winds by the hefty chains swinging from the cranes over the Dublin skyline.
My wife is due at The Coombe at 8am on Saturday to start induction. We're 10 days overdue, hunkered down at Jury's Inn so we can be close by if the weather gets atrocious and the medical advice is to get the ball rolling if nature doesn't kick off overnight.
We're preparing to go to bed for our last night of sleep until sleep becomes a fanciful concept for a few months. Both of our phones start vibrating on the bedside lockers.
The Lidl up near Citywest - Fortunestown Road - is in the thick of it.
At first, it seems as though the store is being looted but further pings include videos that depict scenes of sheer madness - a digger cleaving into the roof, a safe being thumped onto the ground, the shop facade tumbling down, and all to incredulous commentary from those capturing the images.
March 2nd, 2018: The Night Everyone Spent The Night On WhatsApp Sharing Videos Of The Lidl In Tallaght
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) March 2, 2018
Being from Tallaght, I get messages that can be summed up as, 'Look what's happening out your way'.
The scenes are deflating and disappointing. The thoughts of Gardaí and emergency service workers being dragged away from serious issues to deal with this sort of loose cretinism strike hardest.
Can't be worrying about that stuff now.
We're up at 7am the next morning and off to the hospital. The car makes it in one piece. Roads around Dublin's city centre are getting fair enough traffic and not causing major issues. Here we go...
The car is parked up at The Coombe and will stay there until the early hours of Sunday morning.
Our day starts slow and we're not complaining. Looking to stay busy, I trot off to the car park and help some other dads to be to clear parking spots in the snow-covered lot. It's good to be doing something but it eventually dawns on me that I'm here to support my wife so I return with a Lucozade Sport and a weather update.
Hoping for a natural birth, we stall as long as possible until, just after 5pm, my wife is induced. At 6pm, I'm encouraged to grab a bite to eat as we could be in for a long night.
I get back to the labour ward suite at 6.20pm and events have escalated. At 8.38pm, our daughter is born. I am the one given tea and toast and the congratulations. My wife, the real star, won't be allowed to eat until the morning as there was a trip to theatre. It doesn't seem fair but I scarf the toast and leave no traces in the recovery room before we're all reunited as a family.
I let my parents know the news around 11pm and provide every detail I can except for a name that we haven't yet decided.
Just after midnight we're shuttled into one of the multi-baby wards. I'm given an hour to help out and to soak it all in but told I can't stay. Fair enough.
Our family home is in Old Bawn, Tallaght so I check if I can crash for a few hours' sleep then set off.
It all goes well until I hit the Old Bawn housing estate. The car slides, skates and negotiates for 700 or 800 yards before finally - like so many others - getting rammed right in the snow. It's 2.56am on Sunday morning and, oddly, I'm in luck.
A couple of the pubs in the area have closed up and me and four random lads – each finding me on their wanders home – help get the car pushed to the side of the road and out of trouble.
“You're some dozy prick, driving into the housing estate," I'm told by a grinning and very much off-duty fireman who acts as rescue ringleader.
In the middle of it all, one of the lads – his hood up – says, “Whose car is this anyway?”
“It's mine. My wife had a baby tonight and I'm coming back to my folks' to grab some sleep.”
“Wait... [hood comes down, eyes fix mine], Pajo?!”
“Al! Jesus Christ, how are you?!”
“Can't complain.... wait, what? Congrats?”
It’s my best mates’ younger brother. I haven’t seen him since we played Astro on the Greenhills Road a few years back.
We get the car as close to the side of the road as it will ever get in this snow and we all shake hands. I'm offered a place to sleep and told, “We'll get up and dig the bollix out of it in the morning," but I head on for my parents' place.
Mum and Dad are asleep but my little sister is up – at 4am – and I'm delighted to have someone to share our baby story with. I bed down on the pull-out and take another look at a picture of my daughter before giving in to sleep.
'Why didn't I just sleep on a chair in the hospital?!'
'Why didn't you all warn me how bad it was in here?'
They are the two questions I have in the morning – one for myself and one for the wider world. The Luas Red Line is only going from Red Cow so we [myself, my dad, three sisters and brother-in-law] set off with two shovels and wantonly high hopes around 10am on Sunday morning.
I'm happy to leave the car keys with my family and find another way to Crumlin but everyone is convinced we'll un-strand the Avensis.
I'm telling everyone that will listen – and there are lots out now that the snow piles are thawing – of the merry souls that helped me last night. This is the Tallaght that I have always known; that I grew up with.
We round the corner and see my car a hundred yards away. Getting close, though, and we discover that the drivers' side window has been smashed. The back of the car had been jammed with duvets, baby seats, wellies, almond fingers, gloves, viz vests and bags of spare clothes.
There was a laptop in there too, and a purse.
Bizarrely, the only item that was stolen from the car was a Tesco bag with baby clothes in it. Only the person who snatched it could ever possibly explain why.
From feeling the love for Tallaght again to being so gutted and low in the space of a few hours. That is the white and black of it in no time. So much good getting spoiled by a woefully callous yet active minority.
That is as bad as it gets, however.
Like every great comeback story – and Tallaght has a fair few – the next three hours are uplifting. It starts with seven or eight hapless souls trying to dig out cars and ends with hundreds on the streets trying to help out.
Many are cheerful yet clueless – who in Dublin is a snow expert?! - but all are willing. There are successes, failures, slips, barking dogs, laughs, screamed instructions, a chorus of wheel spins and a whole slew of snow dug and flung from the roads.
Eventually, and gratefully, we are towed out by Mick, an old family friend who is heading to his father’s house to check if the pipes haven’t burst. On his way, he is going around in his sturdy jeep helping who he can – familiar faces or strangers.
With each car that is rescued and sent tottering off up the road, a cheer goes up before people turn to the next beached wonder.
A full 10 hours after I had rammed my car into a brutal clump of snow just around the corner from Watermeadow Drive, I am out of the estate and heading back to The Coombe. The car is short one window and a bag of baby clothes.
It also has, all over it, the prints of over 20 different hands of Tallaght locals that helped get it back to where it wanted to be going.
Damaged, wiser, frustrated, assisted, shaky, but still moving.
Maybe we’ll get it all the way right next time.