OVER 16,000 people turned out in Melbourne to pay their respects to football legend Jim Stynes and hear emotional tributes from his wife, friends and family.
Australia said farewell to the Dubliner with mourners clapping loudly as his coffin left St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, earlier today.
Thousands had to be accommodated across the road at Federation Square to watch the eulogies from Stynes’ wife Sam, his brother Brian and team-mate Garry Lyons, broadcast live on giant screens.
They heard Sam tell the congregation that she woke up hoping that if she clicked her heels together three times, she would discover her husband’s death was all a bad dream.
She then recited a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye, which she said reflected Stynes’ wishes for her and their children.
“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.”
Jim’s younger brother, Dublin footballer Brian Stynes said: “He leaves a 6ft 7 inch gap in our lives that will never be filled.”
With his voice breaking he said Jim had been an inspiration and he had lost his best friend.
Former Melbourne footballer and friend Garry Lyons said Stynes would have loved the large crowd gathered to farewell him.
‘‘Big Jimmy would have loved this. He thrived on a big crowd,’’ he said.
Lyons remembered an Aussie Rules series match in Dublin and said he often wondered about Stynes loyalties on such days and questioned if he was a double agent when he was representing Australia.
He remembered that Jim had listened on a walkie talkie to a cross line which allowed him access to the Irish team’s coach and knew in advance every move made by the Irish team.
Jim Stynes' coffin was draped in the Australian flag. Medals marking his extraordinary career with Melbourne Football Club, including the prestigious Brownlow Medal and a record 244 consecutive games, were displayed.
Melbourne's blue and red colours where everywhere, but mourners came from all walks of life.
Local women Meagan Battye brought daughters Brylee (8), and Lainie (7) who both met Mr Stynes at the footy.
"Even if the kids would go up to him while the game was on he'd stop and talk," said Ms Battye, who grew up watching Jim play.
Melbourne literally came to a standstill for service which was at 11am local time, (1am Irish time) with several road closures. Local TV stations also beamed it live.
Back in Dublin, hundreds packed the Church of the Holy Spirit in Ballyroan last night - a minute's walk from where a young Jim went to school and first kicked a football.
Among the congregation were family, friends, neighbours, retired GAA commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh and the Australian Ambassador to Ireland Bruce Davis.
During an emotional tribute, Jim's uncle Kevin Stynes described his passing as the "saddest day of our lives".
As the coffins procession left Flinders Street, Melbourne, through a guard of honour formed by Melbourne players in team blazers, loud applause broke out in the crowd.
Sam Stynes blew kisses and waved to the thousands of mourners gathered as she got into the funeral car.
His remains are to be brought back to Dublin and scattered in the Dublin mountains as was Jim Stynes’ wish.