AT JIM Stynes’ old secondary school, De La Salle College in Dublin, a roomful of 15-year-olds sat in the dark watching a YouTube tribute to their most famous old boy.
It began with a melancholy piano track in minor key and ramped up to a triumphant finale, covering his humble beginnings and early doubts as well as the dizzying successes such as the Brownlow Medal.
The boys had never heard of him until principal Lorcan Balfe announced his death, and the details of his life, over the public-address system. But they pronounced themselves impressed with what they saw. “It’s great that he could do something like that; go across the world and make something of himself,” said Aidan Walsh.
David Redmond said: “When he was in De La Salle he was awesome at the time and now he’s going to have a state funeral over there in Australia.”
But perhaps the most impressed was Mohammed Yagoub: “We have also been told that he wasn’t the brightest pupil there but he was a really hard worker, and whatever he set his mind to, he achieved.”
The footballer who wanted to make a difference to young people is still doing it, half a world away. His smiling face, with the date of his birth and death, is now on a wall beside the security pad in the entrance hall that all the students swipe into every day.
Mr Balfe, who taught Stynes geography and coached him on the senior rugby team, said: “He was a tall, thin man and he didn’t have the bullish strength for rugby. His two brothers were better rugby players because they had more power. He was better at Aussie Rules.
“He wasn’t a natural student. He wouldn’t have been top-notch in terms of intelligence, but he made up for it in terms of hard work.”
He said he was extremely well liked by teachers and fellow students. “People were on to me last night just to chat; they just wanted to talk a little bit about him.”
Stynes attended the college from 1978 until he left for Australia in 1984.
History teacher Eugene Ryan, who played the YouTube video for his students, said: “I think the students are always interested in those who have sat in the same desks. He’s a good role model for them.”
The college was flying its flag at half-mast in Stynes’ memory and there was to be a minute’s silence at a school-related rugby match overnight.
A day earlier, some of Stynes’ old mates gathered in the Ballyboden St Endas 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.