Jim Stynes was a legend. A GAA legend. An Aussie Rules legend. A human legend.
Sadly, he is no longer a living legend. That honor was taken from him at just 45 years of age in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Australian time, as he finally lost his battle with cancer.
When he died, Stynes was many miles from his Dublin birthplace but he was at home, at home with his wife Sam and his two young children.
He was also at home in Australia, a land that offered him a career as one of its greatest sporting heroes in a game unique to its shores.
Jim Stynes was the first great Irish exponent of the Aussie Rules sport. He won’t be the last – many more have followed his lead and his path to Oz, but few if any will ever match his greatness.
His profile, freely available on the Internet that linked Ireland with Australia in terms of sporting grief these past few days, will tell you all about his abilities as a Gaelic footballer with the Dublin minor teams or an Aussie Rules hero with the Melbourne Demons.
But that’s not actually the real reason why Jim’s passing this week touched so many hearts, in either his Irish or Australian homes.
His life is one to be celebrated, and so is his stubbornness in the face of death, an inevitability that becomes nobody no matter what that old saying says.
Jim Stynes lived an extraordinary life and died an extraordinary death if there is such a thing. En route, he offered us all a way to live our lives, a way to fight our own battles on any front.
Cancer is the plague of our times. It is the curse of so many generations now, the disease that cannot be cured in a world where so much vast wealth still can’t fund an antidote.
It is also a disease that has touched every home, every parish, every town in my land and yours, a disease that just will not go away.
Maybe it’s an age thing, but right now I know four good friends who are all battling this disease. All are brave and honest and forthright in their determination to beat the Big C. All have spoken of Jim Stynes as an inspiration.
His death on Tuesday won’t deny them any hope. If anything it will stir them in their own fights, inspire them as he did in the recent past.
Last Christmas, our national broadcasters at RTE screened a fascinating account of Stynes’s battle with cancer, a documentary that deserves to be seen by every single human being on this planet of ours.
His courage in adversity, his refusal to bow to pain even when conventional medicine offered little or no hope, was inspiring for the able bodied, never mind the afflicted.
And one characteristic made Jim Stynes, a big man in any sense, stand head and shoulders above the rest of us. One trait came across loud and clear in that TV documentary.
Jim Stynes was a man with a smile on his face. Always.
Sure, he could grimace in agony as the needles went in, and scrunch his cheek muscles in pain as the treatment took hold, but the Stynes smile was never far away, always close at hand.
His wife Sam said as much in a very moving tribute to her husband in words posted on Facebook very soon after his death.
You should log on now and have a look at those words. You should also check out that documentary on Facebook.
When you do all of that, please take a moment to thank whatever God is of your own choosing that you are alive. Then smile.
That smile can be your own personal tribute to Jim Stynes. He deserves nothing less.
(Cathal Dervan is the sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper).
Rugby News Is Bleak
THERE’S a little bit of good news for Irish rugby fans this week but not a lot of it after Saturday’s humiliation at Twickenham -- a London Mauling as The Sunday Times called it in honor of Joe Strummer and the Clash.
Declan Kidney’s team weren’t just beaten 30-9 by their English hosts, they were also well and truly taught a lesson in the scrum.
Ireland’s problems at prop – we have yet to adequately replace John Hayes or Marcus Horan or both – have been well-documented in the past.
But just in case we didn’t know that Ireland need to find a prop farm somewhere or other and soon, the evidence was damning as the English pulverized Kidney’s pack all afternoon long on Saturday.
The problem isn’t one Ireland can solve quickly no matter who the coach is, so the calls for Kidney’s head this week are probably a little premature.
But what’s certain is that this is an Irish team going nowhere upfront, a worrying thought considering it is also an Irish team going to New Zealand for a summer tour.
Did I mention the good news? Oh yeah, Brian O’Driscoll could be back in a Leinster shirt as early as Friday night when the Welsh Ospreys come to town for a Rabo Direct game at the RDS.
Drico hasn’t seen action since an operation to cure a shoulder injury last October. The sooner he gets back for Leinster and then for Ireland the better.
And yes, that is the only good news on the rugby front right now.
SOCCER: Celtic aren’t happy with the referee who failed to award Anthony Stokes a last minute penalty in the Scottish League Cup final on Sunday, then promptly booked the Dubliner for diving. Next to the anguish of Kilmarnock defender Liam Kelly, whose father died at the game, or the Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba, who almost died during his FA Cup match at Spurs, Messrs Lennon and Stokes have little to worry about me thinks.
BOXING: No sooner had Matthew Macklin lost to Sergio Martinez than the boxing fraternity was putting Andy Lee forward as the next great Irish hope in terms of a world title. I just wish one of them would step up to the plate soon – their sport here at home badly needs a new hero with a real belt around his waist.
SOCCER: Nice to see Robbie Keane get back in the scoring habit for the LA Galaxy last weekend. And nice to hear David Beckham say how important Robbie is to the Galaxy way of doing things. He’s also vitally important to Ireland, so let’s hope he comes through the MLS experience unscathed between now and June.
RACING: Just five Irish winners at Cheltenham this year and plenty of empty pockets. Those who went tell me the craic was as good as ever, but the experience wasn’t quite the same with no big wins to show for it. At least JP McManus and AP McCoy won the Gold Cup with Synchronised.
RACING: Speaking of Cheltenham, Kauto Star was pulled up early in the Gold Cup by jockey Ruby Walsh and received a standing ovation from the packed stands – as the race carried on. That says it all really about the great horse who deserves to retire now.
HEROES OF THE WEEK
IT is a long time since any team scored six goals against the Kilkenny senior team in any hurling game -- over 40 years apparently -- so Dublin deserve credit for that feat at Nowlan Park on Sunday. That they lost -- to a Kilkenny side that managed five goals of their own -- tells you all you need to know about the quality of the National Hurling League fare on view. Credit to both sides, and good luck to everyone who has to play Kilkenny in the Championship this summer.
IDIOTS OF THE WEEK
THEY may have no cash at Rangers these days, but the “other” club in Glasgow is going to hand out something in the region of 43,000 Union Jacks ahead of the Old Firm clash with Celtic this weekend according to reports. Did they lose their sense as well as all their money at Ibrox? This inflammatory gesture would appear to suggest so.