IT WAS for his football that Jim Stynes was known, but for himself that he was loved. The first man to lay flowers last night at his old football club in Dublin arrived alone, weeping quietly.
He brought a bunch of pink carnations with a note saying, “To Jim, Thank you for giving us all hope. Your spirit will live on in us. God bless you.”
“My wife died of cancer when my son was two,” he said, wiping away his tears. “And Jim never gave up [regarding his own cancer]. When you are lonely and and someone is sick belonging to you, you just need hope from someone like him. With his postings on the internet, he kept many a lonely person going. He was selfless and he thought of other people first.
“He was a great hero of a man because he gave us all hope. Everything about him — the way he lived his life, supported his family; his patriotism. He was a hero.” The man, “Mick”, who did not want to be identified, played against Stynes several times when both were teenagers. Stynes, whose father was a former Gaelic footballer and his first coach, was a star even then.
In 1981, he was on the first team from the Ballyboden St Enda’s Football Club to win a championship. In 1984, he won the All-Ireland junior medal for Gaelic football with Dublin.
“When you ran past him he was a giant of a man, but his heart was even bigger,” Mick said. “He was a gentle giant. You make sure people know that.”
Mick said Stynes spent only 18 years in Ireland and 27 years in Australia but was still a big figure in his home town. “When you’re from here, you don’t ever really leave. People know your stories and achievements. I think he was the only man who won a Brownlow who wasn’t born in Australia.”
The general manager of the Ballyboden club, Noel Sheridan, said: “The club is upset for his family and for Jim himself. We were obviously hoping for a miracle, that something would happen, but it became clear from the stories we were hearing that there was nothing that could stop these tumours. The only miracle that took place was that he did give such encouragement to people while he was suffering from it. I think he inspired a lot of people,” Mr Sheridan said.
The club’s flag has been lowered to half-mast in memory of the man who never forget where he came from, at one point driving in an emerald-green four-wheel-drive with a number plate that simply said “Eire”. The club’s bereavement notice ends with the Irish words: Solas na bhFlaitheas da anam uasal — The light of heaven on your noble soul.
First published in The Age.