AN ESTIMATED 16,000 people have turned out to pay their final respects at the state funeral of Jim Stynes, the former Dublin minor footballer and Aussie Rules legend.
Friends and family gathered for a funeral service in St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne while thousands more, many wearing the red and navy of Stynes’ beloved Demons, watched proceedings on large outdoor televisions in nearby Federation Square.
Winner of an All-Ireland minor football medal with Dublin in 1984, he then moved to Australia as one of the pioneers of the AFL’s “Irish Experiment” and became not only one of the sport’s most admired players but one of the country’s best-loved public figures.
GAA President Christy Cooney and Paul Clarke, captain of the 1984 Dublin minor side, were present at Tuesday’s funeral service.
Stynes is survived by his wife Samantha and his children Tiernan and Matisse.
In moving eulogies, Samantha, Jim’s brother Brian, old friend Garry Lyon, and co-founder of his Reach Foundation charity Paul Currie each said their own personal goodbye to a man who will be sorely missed.
“I’m hoping that if I click my heels together three times, I’ll wake up and this is just a bad dream,” Samantha said. “Not the case.
Jim wanted me to speak today. I would not wish to avoid that responsibility. We’ve all been influenced by Jim; his gentleness and his passion for life. I’m privileged to have been close beside Jim through his recent battles.
“Jim made sure during this time that we shared that we grew together through love,” she said, before finishing by reading Alicia’s Poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye.
Brian Stynes, who joined his older brother for two games with Melbourne in 1992, said that Jim’s death had left “a six-foot-seven gap in our lives.”
‘‘We could not have a better son, brother and uncle. I tried following in his footsteps but they were always too big.’’
Lyon, a former captain of the Demons and a close friend for over 30 years, joked about his buddy’s often frugal nature, describing him as “a $5 man” when it came to buying raffle tickets, before finishing with an attempt to sum up Stynes the footballer and the man.
I sat down and wrote a list of words that describe him as a footballer – consistent, reliable, dependable, trustworthy, honest, strong, durable, sincere, loyal, courageous, caring and resilient.
They are wonderful qualities to possess in a footballer. They are even more significant qualities to possess as a man.
A small private wake was to be held after the funeral at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Stynes’ on-field home for so many years. His remains will be cremated and brought back to Ireland to be scattered.
A memorial mass was held in Stynes’ home parish of Ballyroan in Dublin yesterday, attended by GAA Director-General Pairic Duffy and the Australian Ambassador to Ireland Bruce Davis.