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Joe Stynes - Yankee, Bohemian, Rebel and GAA star

Joseph Stynes was a republican, who had already lived quite a life before his arrival in the USA. He was quite the sportsman – and the rebel. Joseph Stynes was a republican, who had already lived quite a life before his arrival in the USA. His older step-sister had already emigrated to the USA by 1917 after her marriage to Diarmuid Lynch in Dundalk Gaol. Diarmuid Lynch was the last man out of the GPO in 1916 and was to death for his part in the Rising of Easter Week. Lynch’s sentence was commuted to ten years of penal service, following the personal intervention of the president of the USA, Woodrow Wilson. (Lynch had taken out American citizenship in 1902). His other step-sister married another of the Collins gang – Joe Clancy.

Pictured at Joseph and Teddy’s wedding on the 28th of March 1921 is her three step-brothers at the very front - Hugh, Peter and Andrew Joseph Stynes

This was the Joseph Stynes (Joe) would go on to play for both Bohemians FC and New York Bohemian FC.

Joe, who was sworn in by Sean Lemass in 1920, was also a talented Gaelic football player and, aged seventeen, was stewarding at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was in September 1920. That day started that morning with the shooting of twenty-one alleged British spies, of whom fourteen died. This was an operation of scale, beyond the capability of a squad of assassins that Collins had assembled called the ‘twelve apostles’, one of whom was Sam Robinson, future Bohemian FC, player.

Reliable men from the Dublin IRA brigades were assembled to assist in the operation, most not knowing that morning what was in store. One IRA Brigade member was Bohemian FC player, Charles Dalton, who recalled sitting at the fire talking well into the night because, like the others, he could not sleep. ‘I was wrought up, thinking of what we had to do the next morning, and I could feel that the other men were the same’.

Later that day, at the All-Ireland final in Croke Park when shooting broke out from the British army leaving fourteen people dead and 60 peoples injured. The occasion was a match

between Dublin and Tipperary, with Bohemian FC trainer, Charlie Harris (right) as trainer of the Dublin team. Joe Stynes recalls:

That was a terrible experience. The Black & Tans sealed off the exits and started shooting. I was on cement steps in the Hogan Stand area and I escaped out the back through the cottages but most people weren’t as lucky as they were kept there up to none o’clock with their hands up’.

He escaped over a wall when the crown forces attacked.

The Dublin Gaelic Football Team on Bloody Sunday

Joe Clancy and,Joseph Stynes half-sister, Toddy Quinn met at another wedding (below) on the 22nd of November 1920, and the photo here is of 16 Airfield Road in Ranalagh, which was a safe house for Collins when he was on the run during the War of Independence. This was taken the day after Bloody Sunday, to which a young Joseph Stynes witnessed. In the photograph (standing, second from the left) is one Michael Collins.

Photo: Joe Clancy and Toddy met at another wedding on the 22nd of November 1920

According to Mrs Clancy’s witness statement the two men had lunch there every Sunday ‘until the truce.’ She concluded: ‘I consider that we were very lucky to have escaped so well that nobody was caught in the house.’ Joe Lynch himself was part of Collins’ circle and had been on the run himself. It seemed brazen, the day after Bloody Sunday, to have a photo taken in the open with such heavy police activity in Dublin at the time. Collin’s shyness here, in this photo is from a well-founded fear that the British authorities would circulate his image on a wanted list. It is now known that Collins successfully evaded capture or death on a number of occasions because of the absence of such a photograph.

The Stynes family themselves were natives of Athy and where father Andrew was born, the son of Hugh Stynes, a trader, in 1862. The genealogy of the Quinn family is complicated since John Quinn married twice, his second wife Annie being the sister of his first, Teresa Lawler . Following John Quinn’s own early death, in 1897, Annie, then expecting Carmel, was left to raise five young children, the others being her son John, born in 1896, as well as the three children of her late sister -- Kit, William and Teddy. In September 1900 she married her late husband’s assistant Andrew Stynes (1862-1934), who had taken over the running of the business, by whom she subsequently had three sons, Hugh (1902-69), Andrew Joseph (Joe) (1903-91) and Peter Stynes (1904-78). By 1902 Andrew has been elevated from manager of the bakery to proprietor.

Annie moved the family back over the business in Newbridge and in 1900 married Andrew Stynes in St Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, Dublin. Staples was again the best man. In the 1901 census Andrew and Annie are listed as residents of house 23, Main Street, Newbridge with all five Quinn children and three shop-men.

By the 1911 census Andrew, Annie and the three young Stynes boys are living there but only one of the Quinn children, William (then twenty-one) is still in residence, as a shop assistant. In September 1919, the Kildare Observer announced the sale of the ‘licensed business, general grocery, provision and bakery etc.,’ as a going concern on the instructions of ‘Mr Andrew Stynes … who owing to acute rheumatism, is unable to continue the business.’ The family left for Dublin some months later though the transfer of the Newbridge license was not completed until October 1920. Following their arrival at Royse Road, Phibsboro from Newbridge College, all three Stynes boys joined the Dublin brigade of the Irish Volunteers.

World political events had created schisms and revolution, carnage and deprivation: World War 1, the Russian revolution of 1917, the Rising in Ireland in 1916 and the subsequent War of Independence and Civil War had profound effects on societies ion these islands and on the far-off continent of America. Ireland’s place in the world was a concern of American politicians, including Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, who sought out the Irish American vote in 1916, and was careful to balance British allies concerns and those of a vociferous Sinn Fein Irish American lobby group.

One of those republicans, exiled in New York was Diarmuid Lynch (now a TD in the First Dail) , brother-in-law of the Stynes brothers. He was National Secretary of the Friends of Irish Freedom raising money Provisional government. Despite Lynch’s efforts, Wilson did not support Ireland in securing independence through the Paris Peace conference of January to June 1919 and by the time of the sitting of the first Dail – the die was cast, and war for Irish independence was inevitable. Prophetically, in March de Valera warned the British, ‘If the Paris Conference fails to take steps to extend self-determination to Ireland, violence will be the only alternative left to Irish patriots.’

Like many young men he had joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and took subsequently took part in the Irish War of Independence as part of Second Battalion, Irish Brigade, IRA until a ceasefire was called. His commander was Oscar Traynor, former goalkeeper with Frankfort FC and Belfast Celtic. At that stage he went back to playing Gaelic Football for his club Henry Joy McCrackens where his teammates included Harry Cannon, future star goalkeeper with Bohemian FC.

Photo: Diarmuid Lynch (far-right) with De Valera in America, 1919

In May 1921, he took part in the burning of the Customs House in which more than 70 IRA men were captured including future Ireland Olympian and international - and Bohemian FC teammate Sam Robinson - and his brother Christy Robinson. This was two months after the wedding photograph Joe Stynes being one of the relatively few attackers to escape.

In 1921, he was selected for the Dublin side for at All-Ireland final, but was arrested three days before the game, missing out on the honour and being interned in Tintown, The Curragh for nine months as a result of his War of Independence IRA activities. In 1922, he sat out the final still interned as a prisoner in the Curragh Camp as a result of his Civil War activities.

For the three Stynes brothers were to take part in the opening engagements of the Civil War (on the anti-treaty side) from the 28th of June to the 5th July 1922, Hugh occupying the Four Courts, while Peter and Joe occupied the buildings (the Hammam and Gresham Hotels) that Oscar Traynor commanded the Republican forces which included small contingents from the Irish Citizen Army and the Communist Party.

Photo: The Hammam Hotel

These buildings were seized on 29 June, in the hope of diverting the Free State from its assault on the Four Courts. When the IRA occupied the Four Courts, he and Oscar Traynor called on them to abandon their position. When they refused, Traynor ordered the occupation of the area around O’Connell Street in the hope of easing the pressure on the Four Courts and of forcing the Free State to negotiate.

Most of the anti-Treaty fighters under Oscar Traynor escaped from O’Connell Street when the buildings they were holding caught fire, leaving Brugha in command of a small rearguard – including Joe Stynes. According to a posthumously published account written by Joe, he was joined at a barricaded window by his stepbrother John Quinn, who he knew could handle a rifle from his experience in the British army in the First World War.

It was not until 1924 that he made his All-Ireland bow for Dublin getting the final two scores against Kerry for victory (this was actually the 1923 final held over for a year, due to civil unrest).

Stynes, fromt row, far right on the 1924 All-Ireland winning Dublin team

He played in the 1924 semi-final before he was banned - for playing soccer for Shelbourne FC: ‘I only played a trial game and I played under a different name so naturally I didn’t expect anyone to report me’. Soccer was a game he learned while imprisoned, with the likes of Jimmy Dunne (future Bohemian FC manager from 1942-47) who still all-time Football League record of scoring in 12 consecutive matches for Sheffield United in 1931-32. In total he scored 305 goals in 332 senior appearances.

Jimmy Dunne, fellow inmate

Now a soccer player he spent the 25/26 season with Shelbourne FC and then signed for Bohemian FC for the 1925/26 season, scoring six goals on the way to winning a Leinster Cup medal before finally, as an amateur sportsman and work hard to come by, he left Irish shores for America. One piece of folklore, recalled some forty years after the event from his time with Bohemians, was about Stynes, turning up late for a game and came out of the dressing-room just in time to take a corner, in doing so both scoring directly and twisting his knee - in doing so he scored a goal while never actually being on the pitch at any time! But by 1927 he was now in the USA having finished out the season with NY Bohemian FC and working in the accounts department of Cartier jewellers.

He returned to Dublin, to play for the American Gaelic Football team at the Tailteann Games in 1928 – only to get the whole USA team banned from playing further games in Ireland by the GAA after the games. Arrangements were made by Stynes, through his association with Bohemian FC for the USA Team to train at Dalymount, a decision which was met with disapproval and censure.

On his return to the USA he signed for professional soccer team the New York Nationals playing alongside Irish International Harry Chatton:

‘A little surprise was sprung yesterday when Ernest Viberg, manager of the Nationals, announced that he had signed up Joe Stynes, famous Gaelic and soccer football star. He plays outside left, where he will fit in very nicely, since Bart McGhee of the Nationals was transferred to Philadelphia. Stynes is reckoned a most aggressive player, which is usually an asset required of all good Gaelic stars. He can kick well with either foot and is highly rated for his fast work in the forward line. He will make his debut with the "Nats" tomorrow at Ebbets Field. Selected on the all-star American Gaelic team that played at the Tallteann Games in Ireland during the summer, Stynes remained over there and played soccer with the Dublin Bohemians, leading Irish Free State eleven, and he is in fine form right now. With the addition of this new star, the Nationals hope to be able to field a team that will beat the Wanderers for the second time this season in the league series.’

By the early 30s, having played just two games – both losses – for the New York Nationals, he was back playing both Gaelic Football and soccer for Dublin United. He is also featured in an usual Irish vs Jews match in 1933 with ex-Shamrock Rover, Dinny Doyle and Gaelic footballer Andrew Furlong. The long arm of the GAA Central Council. in Ireland reached New York in 1936 in barring Gaelic players who had played soccer in New York from competing in international games. This dealt with the case of Joe Stynes, Andy Furlong and others. In support of them one old-timer wrote:

Dear Liam: Since when did the G, A. A. of Ireland start to make rules for the G.A.A. of New York? They have singled out Joey Stynes and Andy Furlong, the two men who played the best games against Irish teams. You gave the headlines to Stynes, who scored so often against Mayo, Kerry and the other teams that came over. The Kildare forward is one of the greatest. Even if he did play soccer In the winter months, it was because he kept in shape, and for that reason is he going to be penalised and thrown off the team that plays Cavan? Remember Furlong in the New York-Irish game? Down there, in the last thin line of defence, it was "Handy Andy" who so often saved his goalie. Is this the thanks the New York G.A.A. is going to give Stynes and Furlong? Toss them off the New York selected team because they played another game. After all, this is America—not Ireland. Another thing, Liam, did the Central Council give any assistance to New York Gaels when the Governing Body was formed here 20 years ago? If Joey Stynes and Andy Furlong are worth positions in the team that plays Cavan nothing should be held against them. Yours for fair play.

Joe Stynes, unsurprisingly remained an active supporter of republican causes right up to his death. One story from his grand-nephew’s autobiography has him kidnapped in New York by mobsters after a neighbour found machine-guns hidden in his house and gossiped to neighbours. Stynes was released quickly when he mentioned the IRA.

Nevertheless, he played Gaelic Football and Hurling for New York right up until the late forties after this stint with the New York Bohemians played with the New York Nationals, Dublin United in the New York soccer circuit in the early 1930s and still into his forties with Segura FC, from the Bronx in 1944. He was to live out the rest of his life in New York, returning home often.

Joe Stynes was the great-uncle of future Dublin Gaelic Football and Australian Rules Football legend Jim Stynes.

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