GAA chiefs are set to send a representative to Melbourne for the funeral of former Dublin minor footballer and AFL legend Jim Stynes, whose passing after a heroic battle against cancer has generated a huge outpouring of tributes in both Ireland and Australia.
Director general Páraic Duffy confirmed the association will be represented at the state funeral that will be held in Victoria for Stynes.
The GAA are also set to enter into discussions with the AFL about a possible memorial for Stynes, who is recognised in the International Rules series where the leading Australian player is awarded the Jim Stynes medal.
“It is extremely sad,” admitted Duffy. “I last met him back in October during the International Rules Series and you really have to go to Australia to realise the impact that he has had. I saw the Australian prime minister was talking about him and I know that Victoria are going to give him a state funeral. Legend is a word that is used a lot but he really was a legend. He was one of our own and we in the GAA are extremely proud of the fact that he was one of our own.”
Duffy also admitted that Stynes had attempted to organise a compromise rules game between the Dublin senior footballers and AFL outfit Melbourne Demons but the plans were shelved.
“Yes, we discussed that possibility but nothing ever came of it. What happened then was, with Jim suffering from ill-health, that idea was discussed with Jim but it never came to fruition. Jim was the driving force for it. We had one meeting in Croke Park about it and that was just before he was diagnosed.”
Meanwhile, Tadhg Kennelly has insisted that he would never have forged a career in the AFL with Sydney Swans if it had not been for Stynes.
“I wouldn’t be here now, it’s that plain and simple. I would not have played one game of AFL football if it wasn’t for Jim Stynes. He was the first guy with a different background, different culture and heritage to come out and play it successfully.
“If he came out and wasn’t as successful, clubs might not have bought into it but because he came out and killed it with the impact he made, people were all over it.”
Kennelly, who played 197 games for Sydney Swans and won an AFL Premiership medal in 2005, paid tribute to Stynes as an invaluable source of advice.
“When I first came out I didn’t know a whole lot about him. But I was given his book when I got here and as soon as I read that, from then on I was gobsmacked.
“I was just in awe of him, I would be constantly picking up the phone to him. I would ring him up and ask him for advice on a contract negotiation, stuff like that.”
“You mention the AFL in Ireland and every single person will say Jim Stynes. He was very proud of his background, very proud to be an Irishman and we love celebrating our exports.
“I mean look what he did at Melbourne, he just threw himself into it.
“I honestly think it is a very Irish thing as the club back at home, your GAA club, is a very patriotic and tribal thing. He would have felt guilt almost when he saw the club not going well. He just said, ‘I’m throwing myself straight into this, I want to fix it’.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved