Death leaves ‘6ft 7in gap in our lives’

The death of Aussie Rules star Jim Stynes has left a 6ft 7in gap in people’s lives, his brother told thousands of mourners at his funeral.

The 45-year-old Dubliner, who lost a long battle with cancer last week, was honoured with a state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral in his adopted home city of Melbourne.

Outside the church, about 5,000 fans poured into the city’s Federation Square to watch the service on a big screen.

Stynes, a former Dublin GAA footballer, moved to Australia when he was 18 and made a name for himself as a sporting great and philanthropist.

His younger brother Brian gave a moving eulogy at the funeral, describing Stynes as his best friend. “He was a big, generous and fun older brother and we all adored him,” Brian said.

In an emotional farewell, he talked about the family’s sadness when Stynes first moved to Australia in 1984.

“We were all devastated at the thought of Jimmy being so far away. Australia to us really was the other side of the world,” said Brian Stynes.

“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 said.

Brian Stynes followed his brother into the sport and later played a match against him.

“I tried following in his footsteps, but they were always too big,” he said.

He said the sporting great had touched many people, describing him as an inspiration to all.

“He leaves a 6ft 7in gap in our lives that will always be empty but I take some comfort that he will be forever in our hearts.”

A former Melbourne teammate Garry Lyon also paid a moving tribute which brought laughs from the congregation.

The deceased was cremated yesterday. His ashes will be brought back to Ireland where they will be scattered across the Dublin mountains.

Hundreds also attended a memorial Mass in south Dublin. GAA director general Páraic Duffy and Australian ambassador to Ireland Bruce Davis were among those in attendance at the service at Ballyroan Church, in Stynes’s former parish of Knocklyon.

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