Former Irish international Jimmy Conway, a soccer legend in the
state of Oregon, has died according to family members. For nearly a decade, Conway, 73, had suffered from trauma-induced dementia. He passed away Friday morning in Portland, Oregon, from multiple
complications of the disease. .
James Patrick Conway was born August 10, 1946, in Dublin, Ireland, and began his youth career with Stella Maris FC, a northern suburban Dublin club which produced 18 Irish international players, including John Giles, Eamon Dunphy, Ashley Grimes, Pierce O’Leary, Gerry Daly, Eoin Hand, Liam O'Brien, Pat Dunne and John Andersen.
At 17, Conway made his senior debut with Bohemians in the League of Ireland, primarily playing midfield and winger. He drew the attention of the English professional clubs, and, in 1966 moved to Fulham where he spent the next 10 years as a first-team regular, scoring 67 goals in 314 appearances.. In 1975, Jimmy led the Cottagers to one of their greatest glories, an 11-game unbeaten run to the FA Cup final at Wembley, where they lost to rival West Ham. During that spell, he also made 20 international appearances for Ireland, scoring three times.
In 1976, he transferred to Manchester City but injuries limited him to just 13 appearances over two seasons.
In 1978, the Portland Timbers of the original NASL bought his contract and he finished his playing career in the Pacific Northwest, scoring seven goals and serving as captain of the club over 61 outdoor appearances and two NASL indoor seasons. He served as an assistant coach of the Timbers during the club’s pre-MLS seasons from 2001-2005.
In 1981, he was appointed director of coaching for the Oregon Youth Soccer Association, a post he would hold for the next 28 years. During that long tenure, he trained an estimated 24,000 coaches and players, earned his USSF “A” license in 1991 and helped get more than 1,100 youth coaches licensed at the state D level or higher. In 1982, he took over the men's head coaching position at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, where he spent five years and turned the Boxers into a Northwest small college powerhouse.
That convinced Oregon State University in 1988 to hire him as its first men's coach in 1988, and his team would win 45 games in the first four of his 11 seasons there. Conway still holds program records for conference wins (28), overall wins (97), goals in a season (50 in 1990), and career winning percentage (.523).
When his medical diagnosis was determined, former Timbers teammate Mick Hoban and his wife, Linda, the Conway family and a group of volunteers spearheaded a series of tribute events in 2010 that included a testimonial dinner at the Nike World Headquarters in suburban Portland. The event reunited Jimmy with hundreds of former youth players and coaches, teammates from Irish and English playing days, college administrators and representatives from U.S. Soccer and Oregon adult and youth soccer organizations.
“The breadth of what he did and the impact he had on soccer in Oregon was unbeatable,” Hoban told the Oregonian. “He was an incredible advocate for the sport and one of the friendliest and most loyal people you’ll ever meet. He was just a very humble, modest and highly accomplished man.”
Two of Conway's brothers also played professional soccer, and his son, Paul, was an All-American at Hartwick College before playing professionally in England and later with the Charleston Battery and Portland Timbers in the USA.
Jimmy is survived by his wife of 50 years, Noeleen, two sons, a daughter, eight grandchildren and 10 brothers and sisters.
Further information on funeral arrangements, donations and Jimmy's soccer career can be found on Jimmy’s Facebook page "Fans of Jimmy Conway."