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Stynes leaves a lasting legacy of inspiration

Jim Stynes.

THAT HE is to receive a state funeral in Melbourne next week should be  enough to tell us about the esteem in  which Jim Stynes was held in Australia.

‘Dublin Jim’, one of Ireland’s greatest exports, passed away early this week aged 45 and following a harrowing three-year battle with cancer.

Jim Stynes’ story, it is said, is one of  the most remarkable in Australian sports history. After winning an All-Ireland minor medal with Dublin, he left for Australia after answering an advertisement placed by the Melbourne Demons as part of their ‘Irish  Experiment’ in 1984.

Jim Stynes knew nothing of Australian Rules football, but he became one of its most iconic figures.

In the 1987 preliminary final, he ran across the mark, giving away a 15-metre penalty that was converted by Gary Buckenara to win the game for the Hawthorn’s. Coach John Northey raged at Stynes, who fled Australia in embarrassment. Some weeks later, he was in a Metro station in Paris when a man in an Aussie accent wondered ‘Are you the bloke who ran across the mark?’

He knew then there was no hiding place and he returned to Australia.

What ensued was extraordinary. Stynes played a staggering 244 consecutive games, an AFL record, and defied medical logic to play on many occasions. In 1991 he won the Brownlow Medal, and to this day is the only player raised outside of Australia to win the honour.

His life is about so much more than football however.

He set up the Reach Foundation, which work with kids between the ages of 10 and 18. He went onto become chairman of the Melbourne club and led their fightback from near-extinction.

In many ways it personified his own personal fight.

In 2009, he faced a packed press conference in Melbourne and confirmed the worst: He’d been diagnosed with cancer. Initially he was given only months to live.

In 2010, he took part in a documentary that laid bare his torturing battle with his illness.

It’s hard to watch Every Heart Beats True without becoming emotional at watching a once imposing man reduced to such depths.

Stynes, seeking any means of survival possible, sought alternative therapies to assist and prolong his life.

He appears at one point in thebdocumentary with a glass of liquid, pops in a couple of ice cubes, holds his nose and gulps down the contents.

Jim Stynes, in his desperation, drank his own urine. He also explored other therapies, from coffee enemas to smoke treatment in Jakarta. He meditated daily and took up Reiki massage. In between it all, he  had operations to remove 23 tumours, including six bouts of brain surgery.

He finally succumbed earlier this week.

But it wasn’t without a fight. In a moving tribute on her Facebook page on Tuesday his wife Sam told an emotional story.

“Not surprisingly, in his last week of life Jim continued to defy the odds and lived his life to the fullest attending the Melbourne vs. Hawthorn football match, his son Tiernan’s 7th Birthday celebration, The MFC Blazer Ceremony and a casual Friday night dinner at Topolinos in his much loved suburb St Kilda,” she said.

Jim Stynes leaves us with a lasting legacy of inspiration.

May he Rest in Peace.

 

REALITY CHECK

THE GAA’s Director General Paraic Duffy is in need of a reality check.

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Last week, the Monaghan man issued his annual report; a detailed document that deals with the Association from top to bottom.

An old bug bearer of the suits in Croke Park is the media coverage afforded to their games.

In his report Duffy had a strange sideswipe.

“It does seem to some of us that our games do not always receive the nature and extent of the exposure they deserve,” he wrote.

“It is as if some commentators were less impressed by what is Irish only, or else that the very fact of our games being amateur means that they are somehow less worthy of

notice. One was struck, for example, by the absence of recognition of our players in prominent national end-of-season awards.

“The lesser attention that our games seem to receive has clearly nothing to do with popularity or innate attractiveness. Might it be that the lack of an international and professional dimension has created a form of condescension towards Gaelic games.”

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While his comments seemed to stem from what he believed was ‘excessive coverage’ of the disgraceful scenes at the All-Ireland club game between Derrytresk and Dromid Pearses in January, they were over-the-top and, dare I suggest, ‘excessive’.

Gaelic Games is perhaps the most widely covered sport across this country. Most of the national newspapers have a dedicated team of Gaelic Games reporters and at provincial newspapers, like the Donegal News, Gaelic Games is the foundation stone upon which the sports pages are drawn.

So, for Duffy to suggest that ‘our games do not always receive the nature and extent of the exposure they deserve’ is well wide of the mark.

In Monday’s newspaper, 12 pages were dedicated to Gaelic Games – ranging from senior intercounty coverage, to U21 football, minor football, minor hurling, ladies football and club matches (as wide a spectrum of GAA as you could have on any given weekend) – and this edition has 12 pages of GAA content.

All sports don’t believe the coverage given to their games is appropriate, everyone wants a greater slice of  the cake, but the GAA is one organisation which receives more than adequate print and airspace all year round and in the summer time – even this year, with the European Championships in soccer and the Olympics, the GAA is the big show in town.

It should be noted that this coverage is produced despite a very small percentage of GAA venues having what could be termed adequate media facilities. Perhaps Mr Duffy could look at the lack of wifi, working electrical sockets and a dearth of workspace when next he pens a report to the masses.

Indeed, it might also be worth Mr Duffy’s while to examine the process of accrediting Gaelic Games journalists. This year, the Donegal News was informed that only four of six requested journalists could be given passes – when one considers holidays and weekends when there is a packed schedule, it limits the amount of space that can be given when our requests cannot be accommodated.

c.mcnulty@donegalnews.com

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