Philip Morgan Conway was born in 1948 in Dublin and went to boarding school in Rockwell College, Tipperary from an early age. He received a full a scholarship to Boston University where he studied Physical Education.
He took up throwing at the age of twelve, ably coached by Fr. Lavelle of Rockwell College and went on to win numerous County, National and International titles. These included four National Championship titles in the Shot and five in the Discus as well as one in the Hammer. He also had the honour of representing Ireland in the shot at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Phil still competes in the Veterans championships every year where he continues to pick up medals.
On his return from Boston University in 1972, Phil announced that he was going to lead a “great revival” of the old tradition of Irish throwers and ever since, has been heavily involved in coaching at every level. I don’t think there’s an Irish thrower at any level that hasn’t been coached by Phil at some point in their throwing career or by someone else who has. For anyone who knows Phil, you will know exactly how passionate he is about the sport and how much he has done for Irish athletics.
This passion has been passed down to his daughters; Karen, the eldest is currently studying in America (Manhatton College) and is showing great form in the hammer while Phillipa, who still in secondary school is the defending Irish Schools junior champion in the discus.
The following article was written by Phil and is the first part of a two-part profile of hiss throwing career. The second part is entitled “The Road To Munich” and will be posted soon. - Austin Kennedy (January 2003).
The Road to Boston, Mass. U.S.A. – Philip Conway.
3.25kg SP – 10.36m (unofficial)
3.25kg SP – 14.89m (All Ireland Schools, Ballinasloe, 2nd place)
Coach Fr. M. Lavelle C.S.S.P., Rockwell College
4kg SP – 15.24m (East Munster Schools, 1st place)
U.17 All Ireland Schools, Iveagh grounds, Dublin, 2nd place
Military press – 30kg
Split style snatch – 34kg
Clean & jerk – 70kg
Weight – 87kg
Vertical jump – 57cm
4kg SP – 16.25m (U.17 All Ireland Schools, Mardyke, Cork, 1st place)
7.25kg SP – 9.98m (In May off grass)
1.5kg DT – 37.18m
2kg DT – 30.60m (In May off grass)
I started lifting weights three days a week in a Physical Culture Gym during the summer holidays in Dublin. My weight went to 96kg. I did every exercise known to man just to get stronger and competed nearly every week over the summer.
End of summer marks:
5.5kg SP – 15.85m
7.25kg SP – 12.56m (Co. Dublin NACA Championships)
1.5kg DT – 46.64m
2kg DT – 37.18m (In May off grass)
Power clean – 80kg
Bench press – 70kg
Age 17 (Final year in school)
Front squat – 91kg (4 sets of 6 reps,no squat rack)
Bench press – 75kg (2 reps)
Power clean – 95kg (4 sets of 5 reps)
5.5kg SP – 15.85m (All Ireland Schools, Ballinasloe, 1st place)
1.5kg DT – 45.36m (All Ireland Schools, Ballinasloe, 1st place)
Had a training mark of 48.78m in the 1.5kg DTSummer of ‘65
Competing with Blackrock AC, Dublin
5.5kg SP – 16.80m (N.A.C.A. U.19 Championships, 1st place)
1.5kg DT – 50.12m (N.A.C.A. U.19 Championships, 1st place)
1.5kg DT – 50.60m (F.I.S.E.C. Games, Vienna, 1st place)
2kg DT – 40.62m (All Ireland N.A.C.A. Championships, Banteer, Co.Cork, 2nd place)
Best 7.25kg SP Mark – 13.41m
Did a decathlon for fun!
I benefited from Bears Club Coaching, Gormanstown and from summer school of athletics coaching course in Belfield. I also learned a lot at 6 St. Stephens Green, U.C.D. with Varju’s (of Hungary) coach.
However, I was in very regular contact with Fr. Lavelle of Rockwell College.September ‘65
I finished school and worked in an office in Dublin. I gave up rugby (in which I had won a Munster Schools senior cup medal with Rockwell the previous year) and lifted weights for September, October and half of November. I injured my back and was out until mid January but got back into the weights and threw at the weekends.
I began to get strong (Easter Bears was a great stepping stone) which was encouraging as I was very keen to do well with the senior implements. I had never done plyometrics, medicine ball or stretching in my life, just throwing, eating, lifting and more throwing. I ran some 100m handicap races and Club relays for speed.
7.25kg SP – 14.20m (Senior Tailteann Games, Croke Park, June Bank holiday weekend, 1st place)
Half Squat (with rack) – 228kg
Clean & jerk (crude bar) – 110kg
Bench press – 91kg
Best 2kg DT – 46.78m
1.5kg DT – 51.16m (N.A.C.A. Junior championships)
5.5kg SP – 17.39m (N.A.C.A. Junior championships)
I also competed in the N.A.C.A. Senior championships.
In order to get International competition, I had to join the A.A.U. and Crusaders Athletics Club.
I won the AAA’s U.20 DT title with a throw of 54.00m with the 1.5kg Discus (left hand breeze) and came 4th in the SP (5.5kg) with a throw of 16.73m. I also went on to win the A.A.U. and the I.A.A.A. titles later that year.
I had been in contact with Penn State University, Eastern Michigan, Villanova (Hugh O’Callaghan) but in July was offered a full scholarship to Boston Universty ($2,100, room, board and tuition). I signed up for physical education.
At the time, there were no opportunities available in Ireland to study P.E. although some people went to St. Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill, London which was a little closer to home. Ling College (Dublin) trained female P.E. teachers for 60 years! In 1966, there were only about twenty male P.E. teachers in Ireland, many of which were ex-army from A.S.P.C. in the Curragh. I had never been in a formal P.E. class in my life although we had done a lot of circuit training for rugby and interval training on tarmac.
I was fortunate to have been in Rockwell where there was a great athletic tradition and sports culture. I remember the cross country lads running “the hill” and the rugby team getting “egg flips” (an early version of protein shakes) for the morning break. They produced the first Irish schoolboy high jumper to clear 6ft (1.83m), and the first pole vaulter to clear 11ft and 12ft (3.35m and 3.66m). We had athletic leagues where everyone did everything, I once ran a 3 mile race for a point that nearly killed me.
In many of my early competitions, I threw off grass. Spikes were worn for the discus and one runner, one spike for the shot. For schoolboys, it was a big deal to own a tracksuit.
Dr. Pat O’Callaghan judged my first 50ft (15.26m) throw in the shot and I remember he told me to “keep at it”. I saw John Lawler throw the hammer 58m in Trinity College onto the rugby pitch! He won the hammer at the Tailteann games, Croke Park, 1966. Bob Tisdall was there giving out prizes. Some Japanese athletes threw the hammer 61m in Iveagh Grounds and Santry that year. This was a huge feat for such small men, we couldn’t believe the speed of them.
I threw the 5.5kg hammer 32m using discus turns. Fr. Lavelle had shown me the foot work so I had an idea but not enough training to gain confidence. In the Leinster Senior N.A.C.A. championships, I saw three men throw 48-50m off grass in the hammer at the Newbridge GAA grounds; Tommy Kelly, Mick McDonagh and Frank O’Shea (the latter two were army men).
Before I left for America the fibre glass pole was just invented, the flop didn’t exist in the high jump and a few crack pots were playing with a spin in the shot! Someone threw the javelin discus style (this was banned quickly, it was unpredictable due to the fact that throwers greased their throwing hand). Others tried the long jump with a somersault!
There were about seven Irish athletes in U.S.A. when I went. In August, 1966, I took a Shannon R.F.C. charter flight for £66 to the “New World” where I saw Sydney Poitier and Frank Sinatra upon landing. This started an adventure that would continue for the next four years – I’d never look back.