Jimmy Conway, a Portland Timbers fable and one of the best affecting abstracts in the history of soccer in Oregon, died Friday morning afterwards a multiyear action with trauma-induced dementia. He was 73.
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A built-in of Dublin, Ireland, Conway came to Portland in 1978 afterwards a 14-year able career in Britain, abutting the Timbers aback they competed in the old North American Soccer League. He bound became a fan favorite, his adorable mix of accomplishment and courage in the midfield alluring him to a burghal that was falling in adulation with soccer.
Conway went on to comedy bristles seasons with the Timbers — including two on their calm aggregation — afore abatement into a apprenticeship career and mentorship role that spanned decades, affected about every akin of the action and afflicted tens of bags of Oregonians.
“The across of what he did and the appulse he had on soccer in Oregon was unbeatable,” Mick Hoban, Conway’s longtime acquaintance and the Timbers’ aboriginal player, said. “He was an absurd apostle for the action and one of the friendliest and best loyal bodies you’ll anytime meet. He was aloof a actual humble, bashful and awful able man.”
Conway was diagnosed in 2009 with dementia, a degenerative academician ache agnate to Alzheimer’s, which his wife, Noeleen, attributed to his abounding years of arena the action he loved. Conway had been ailing in contempo years as his action worsened and he died Friday morning amidst by his family.
“Jimmy was an abundantly affectionate and giving animal actuality and aloof a role archetypal to anybody complex in the sport,” Gavin Wilkinson, the Timbers’ accepted administrator and admiral of soccer, said. “With Jimmy, it was never about what he could get out of it, but how it would account others and account the sport. It sounds a bit cliché, but he was all about overextension the adulation of the game, educating bodies and teaching the appropriate way to play. He was absolutely unique.”
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Before affective to Portland to comedy for the Timbers, Conway had a acclaimed all-embracing soccer career, which included an 11-year assignment with Fulham FC, area he denticulate 67 goals over 314 matches and starred on the alone aggregation in club history to ability the celebrated FA Cup Final. He went on to comedy for Manchester City, but injuries bound him to aloof 13 appearances. Throughout it all, Conway additionally competed for the Irish National Team, scoring three goals in 20 amateur over 11 years.
After his anatomy bootless him in Manchester City, Conway approached Noeleen with an abrupt query: “Would you like to go alive in America?” Her reply: “Hey, big adventure, why not?” They confused to Portland and never left.
It was a altered era aback Conway stepped bottom in the Rose City, able-bodied afore the bouncy Timbers Army abounding an absolute area of a 25,000-seat advanced amphitheater and kids on every cul-de-sac played soccer. The bold was bizarre and asperous about the edges and admirers were harder to find. His signing was the agnate to that of a appointed amateur in today’s Major League Soccer, but it hardly fabricated headlines.
“He accustomed with little fanfare,” John Polis, The Oregonian’s aboriginal Timbers exhausted writer, said. “It was beneath the radar. Aboriginal of all, you were bringing in an alien amateur from England and we aloof didn’t chase the English bold aback then. Aback guys came over, cipher had heard of them except a few of the fanatics. Also, the absorption aloof wasn’t that abundant aback then.”
But Conway, a determined and accomplished 5-foot-8 midfielder, bound became a aggregation captain and fan favorite. He went on to account seven goals in 61 amateur over three seasons, afore arena two added calm seasons. He additionally served as an abettor drillmaster in 1980, which helped atom the abutting three decades of his life. He’s one of bristles bodies inducted into the Timbers Ring of Honor.
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“He was boxy as nuts,” Hoban said. “He was your affliction daydream as a defender. You hated somebody that was low to the ground, congenital bedrock solid and both quick in agreement of their acceleration and additionally with the ball. He had aberrant skills. Jimmy was like a little brick outhouse. Lovely balance. Abundant blow on the ball. And he had an absurd engine, could aloof run for days.”
Even in his afterwards years, Conway’s concrete fettle was legendary. He could acutely run always and it was not aberrant to atom him gliding forth Canopy Road against Highway 217. Even in his final years, nurses marveled at his backbone and action as he battled through an array of illnesses. It was applicable for a man who grew up one of 12 kids — six boys and six girls — in a two-bedroom abode in a banal Dublin neighborhood.
“He was like ‘The Little Agent That Could,’” Hoban said. “I fabricated the aberration of volunteering to run up in the West Hills with him one day and he about dead me.”
But off the angle and abroad from competition, Conway had a affectionate body and was a abecedary at heart. If he wasn’t arise a joke, he was acceptable antic a smile on his face.
During his arena days, teammates playfully nicknamed him “Perfect Peter,” an ode to his wholesome affairs and loyal-to-the-core ethos. In the backward 1970s, aback disco disqualified and partying was the norm, Conway prioritized added things. He didn’t drink. He didn’t smoke. And he never experimented with drugs. Best players lived for visits to New York and the affairs of a stop by the iconic Studio 54. But Conway was not best players.
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“Back then, footballers — and I was one of them — were a appealing bouncy group,” Hoban said. “A lot of bodies were about partying and discoing. There was all kinds of booze and drugs and women and all that actuality that came with actuality a able athlete. But Jimmy didn’t do any of that. He aloof went to work, approved to be a abundant teammate. And while they ability accept accustomed him (guff) at the time, they all had to duke it to him. He was his own man. He was not activity to be affected by any cultural movement or associate pressure. And anybody affectionate of admired him for that.”
After his arena career, Conway fabricated his better appulse in the state, acceptable the administrator of apprenticeship for the Oregon Adolescence Soccer Association. At the time, the alignment boasted aloof 4,000 adolescence players throughout the state. But fueled by the aforementioned affection and adherence he showed as a player, Conway angry it into a juggernaut. Over his 28-year run, the OYSA broadcast to added than 24,000 adolescence players. It now boasts added than 54,000 as the sport’s acceptance has skyrocketed in the Northwest.
As he grew soccer on the grassroots level, Conway additionally shaped added than a decade of academy players as a drillmaster at Pacific University and Oregon State. He fabricated his better consequence in Corvallis, where, afterwards acceptable the aboriginal men’s drillmaster in academy history, he spent 11 seasons and still holds academy annal for wins (97), appointment wins (28) and career acceptable allotment (52.3).
“The soccer apple is actual afflicted by his loss,” Bobby Howe, who accomplished the Timbers from 2001-2005, said. “They’ve absent a admirable soccer amateur and a agitating person.”
Conway is survived by his wife of 50 years, Noeleen, sons Paul and Mark and daughter, Laura, additional eight grandchildren and 10 brothers and sisters. Funeral casework are pending. The ancestors suggests contributions to Boston University against analysis on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative ache associated with acquaintance sports.
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— Joe Freeman | [email protected] | 503-294-5183 | @BlazerFreeman | Subscribe to Oregonian/OregonLive newsletters and podcasts for the latest account and top stories
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