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Tuesday 23 January 2018

'Jim leaves a 6ft 7 gap in our lives but he's forever in our hearts'

Breda Heffernan and Cheryl Critchley

THE ashes of legendary footballer Jim Stynes (right) will be brought back to his native Ireland from Australia this summer and scattered in the Dublin Mountains.

Mr Stynes's uncle Kevin, who lives in Dublin, said plans have yet to be finalised, but it could be June or July before the ceremony takes place.

"He used to do his pre-season training in the Dublin Mountains each Christmas for the Australian football. He loved it there," said Mr Stynes yesterday.

The private family ceremony will be in stark contrast to the state funeral which was accorded the iconic Aussie Rules star in his adopted home city of Melbourne yesterday.

His widow Samantha, daughter Matisse (10) and son Tiernan (7) led over 1,200 mourners inside St Paul's Cathedral, while outside some 5,000 fans -- sporting the red and blue of Melbourne -- thronged the streets.

A heartbroken Samantha told the congregation how she wished she could click her heels three times and wake up to discover his death was "just a bad dream".

"We've all been influenced by Jim -- his gentleness and his passion for life," she said.

"I'm privileged to have been close beside Jim during his more recent battles. Jim made sure during this time that we shared, that we grew together through love," she added.

Mr Stynes' younger brother Brian paid his own moving tribute to "Stynser" who died last week at the age of 45 following a long fight against cancer. He told how the Rathfarnham family were distraught when the champion footballer announced at the age of 18 that he was leaving for Australia.


"We were all devastated at the thought of Jimmy being so far away. Australia to us really was the other side of the world.

"Jimmy was only allowed to ring home once a week. This was the highlight of our week and I can remember us all waiting to speak to Jimmy. We all loved and missed him so much," he recalled.

His voice faltering, Brian told how his brother had led a wonderful, but too-short life and how, in his final weeks, he had asked him to take care of Samantha and their children.

"He leaves a 6ft 7 gap in our lives that will always be empty. But I take some comfort that he will forever be in our hearts as we are in his. I tried following in his footsteps but they were always too big. I will miss you Stynser, my brother and my best friend."

While the funeral had a distinctly Australian flavour -- with the coffin draped in the Aussie flag and the national anthem ringing out around the cathedral -- Mr Stynes ensured it also reflected his native land. The service included a traditional Irish blessing and Celtic bells decorated the church.

GAA president Christy Cooney represented the world of Gaelic football and was joined by Paul Clarke who captained Mr Stynes' Dublin minor team which won the All-Ireland in 1984.

Outside, crowds sat in the sunshine in Federation Square where they watched the service on a big screen.

Among them was Dubliner Sinead Fagan, who met her husband, Gary Wise, when she once went to watch Mr Stynes play for Melbourne.

"I was in Australia for one week," she said. "If it wasn't for Jim we wouldn't be together. We're going to say thank you."

Irish Independent

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