SOME of the world's best known sports stars yesterday paid tribute to the late Australian Rules football legend Jim Stynes.
Stynes, who lost his two and a half year battle with cancer, will be honoured with a state funeral in his adopted home country in the coming days.
The 45-year-old Dubliner died at his home in Melbourne on Monday night surrounded by his family and friends, including wife Sam and children Matisse and Tiernan.
News of his death led to an outpouring of tributes on social networking sites such as Twitter, with hundreds describing him as an "icon", a "legend" and a "mate".
Sportsmen from around the globe who paid tribute to the footballer included Tour de France legend and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong and Australian international cricketer Shane Warne.
"Very sad news with confirmation that Jim Stynes has passed away. Condolences to all the Stynes family friends, he was an inspiring man!" Warne said.
Everton footballer Tim Cahill also marked his passing by tweeting: "RIP Jim Stynes, my thoughts and prayers go out to his family."
Former Westlife member Brian McFadden, who now lives in Australia, wrote: "Sad day for AFL, Aussies and Irish people with the passing of a great ambassador for sport and courage. The original fighting Irish. Big Jim."
A former Dublin minor footballer, Stynes played 264 games with Melbourne and remains the only player recruited outside of Australia to win the Brownlow Medal, awarded for the "fairest and best" player in the Australian Football League.
Warm tributes were paid to the sportsman and charity worker in the Australian parliament in Canberra by prime minister Julia Gillard yesterday.
And Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who was a guest at the parliament with Ireland's ambassador to Australia, Noel White, said he was deeply saddened to learn of Stynes' death.
"The decision of the Australian authorities to honour Jim with a state funeral is an indication of the high esteem in which he was rightly held and a fitting tribute to a man who devoted his life to the well-being of others," he said.
Christy Cooney, president of the GAA, said Stynes, an All-Ireland minor champion with Dublin in 1984, was a "hugely respected and admired figure".
His uncle, Dubliner Kevin Stynes, last night paid tribute to a nephew he described as "one of a kind".
"He came back from the edge so many times that nobody believed he would actually go until the moment he did. The family is still in shock," he told the Irish Independent.
"He fought so hard to hang on. The amount of operations he went through and treatments was incredible and yet he would always have a smile on his face and remained a wonderful father, son and husband during his illness.
"He was an absolutely fantastic ambassador for Ireland and the legacy of his charity work will continue to enhance the lives of young people for years to come," he said.