SOME of Jim Stynes’ old mates gathered on Tuesday night in the Gaelic football clubroom where his teenage championship team photo hangs on the wall, and the Australian rules football he signed as a gift is still on show.
There was as much laughter as regret. Sean Flynn was chairman of the juvenile section of the club when Stynes began as a 10-year-old. He still can’t help but chuckle every time he remembers how the tall, stubborn lad in centre field, six foot by the time he was 11, effortlessly stymied the opposition every time. Other teams would put two or three players on him but he would still snatch the ball and burst forward with it. “He was just as exciting at that early level — 11, 12, 13 — as he was an adult,” Mr Flynn told The Age earlier in the day. “The opposition couldn’t deal with him at all.” A former teammate, Ben Molloy, remembers his ability to take the hard knocks. “If he got a few belts from the other players he would never complain. The other teams could never understand how he would just get back up and play football.”
Says another former teammate, Ger Flaherty: “His biggest attribute was his heart. He would run and run all day long and work hard. He was so strong-willed and determined that he was insurmountable. But he was also a no-frills person. He wasn’t into accolades.”
Mr Flaherty remembers how that big heart kept him waiting one night in Melbourne when he was due to catch up with Stynes, who was caught up helping one of the troubled teens for whom he set up the Reach Foundation. “He was standing outside a courthouse waiting for one of those juveniles he wanted to support to get back on the social ladder.”
The president of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Christy Cooney, said: “You only have to take note of the massive outpouring that has accompanied his passing to fully understand the regard he was held in — on both sides of the world.
“He fought his illness the way he played his football — with honesty, integrity and consistency — and, on its own, his successful transition from our game to AFL footy was a statement about the man.”
The Ballyboden St Endas club plans to organise a Catholic mass in Stynes’ memory and is expecting a large turnout. Mr Molloy says he was flooded with text messages after he sent the news to a few friends; not just from club members but people who had played opposite him or whose fathers or relatives had played, and those who admired him. Stynes was a local hero.
Says Mr Molloy: “At the end of the day, he was a ‘Dub’. He was from Dublin.”
First published in The Age.