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Joe Kernan: Legend Stynes has left us a rich legacy

The word Australia has cropped up in countless conversations when GAA officials, players and fans have gathered lately.

And with good reason too. Australia is to where hundreds of club members and fans have emigrated recently in search of work because of the recession here.

It is a popular destination because there is no language barrier, the climate is equable and the lifestyle is broadly similar to that which we enjoy here.

Seldom indeed has there been as many Irish folk Down Under as there are right now.

However, Australia is being mentioned this week in a rather different context.

As the country in which former Dublin player Jim Stynes achieved iconic status in the Rules code, the shock of his death there at the age of 45 from cancer was profound.

Stynes was one of the most high-profile players in the Australian Football League for many years winning a number of accolades.

His prowess as a player and his overall demeanour as a special human being won him many friends.

Not only did he excel at his chosen sport but he also did magnificent work in a charity context, helping many under-privileged children.

He was still held in the greatest esteem within the GAA, which is underlined by the fact that president Christy Cooney and other top officials attended his funeral.

Several players from Ireland who have hit the high spots in the AFL including Tadgh Kennelly and Martin Clarke have been fulsome in their praise of Jim.

He rendered unceasing help to young players from this country who went out to try their hand at Australian Rules.

He bore his final illness with typical courage and calmness and his death, at a young age, created an unprecedented outpouring of grief across Australia.

He left a rich legacy, though, both as a sportsman and as a person for which we must be grateful.

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