Former Manchester United footballer Philip Mulryne ordained a Catholic priest
A former Manchester United footballer will return to his native west Belfast tonight to say his first Mass as a Catholic priest.
Fr Philip Mulryne, who is reported to have once earned £600,000 a year as a professional footballer, will return to St Oliver Plunkett in Lenadoon just two days after he was ordained into the Dominican Order in Dublin on Saturday.
Fr Mulryne began his footballing career playing for his parish soccer team, St Oliver Plunkett.
Spotted by a scout for Manchester United , at the age of 14 he was invited for a trial and soon signed a schoolboy contract for two years.
In 1994, when Fr Mulryne finished secondary school, he went to Manchester United as a full time professional on a four-year contract, making his debut in 1997 against Ipswich Town Football Club.
The sports star played for United five times before he was transferred to Norwich City Football Club in 1999. During six years with the team, he played 135 times.
He made his debut for Northern Ireland in 1997 against Belgium and went on to play 27 times for the team, scoring three goals.
After short spells at Cardiff City and Leyton Orient, Fr Mulryne officially retired from football in 2009 and later entered the Diocesan Seminary of St Malachy’s in Belfast.
He then spent two years studying philosophy at Queens University and at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham.
Fr Mulryne completed his studies in philosophy and went to the Pontifical Irish College, in Rome to study theology for one year at the Gregorian University. He then entered the Dominican Novitiate House in Cork in 2012.
On Saturday, friends and family gathered together at St Saviour's Church in Dublin to see him ordained into the priesthood by Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, Assistant Secretary at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, who had from Rome for the ceremony.
Archbishop Di Noia told Fr Mulryne, who took a vow of poverty, that his "experience as an athlete has helped to prepare you for this moment: you have known the meaning of working hard to attain a goal, and now the goal is Christ.”
He added: "You are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher, and in imitation of our blessed founder, St Dominic.
"Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practise what you teach".
It is understood Fr Mulryne is to be assigned to the Dominican priory at Newbridge, Co Kildare, where he will join the chaplaincy team at Newbridge College.
Friends, family and supporters of Fr Mulryne are expected to gather tonight at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Lenadoon where he is due to say his first Mass.