Fr Phil Mulryne: From Fergie's Fledgling to a life of faith

Phil Mulryne won 35 caps for Northern Ireland
Andy Watters

FORMER Manchester United and Northern Ireland star Fr Philip Mulryne will discuss his path from the Premier League to the priesthood at Lowe Church in Belfast on Friday night (April 26) from 7.30pm.

Fr Mulryne cast aside the trappings of professional football to devote his life to God by joining the Dominican Order and is now based in Newbridge College, Kildare and he returns to his native city at the weekend to discuss his fascinating journey from one of Fergie’s fledglings to a life of faith.

The Northern Ireland international grew up in Lenadoon and his roots in soccer go back to Belfast’s Oliver Plunkett FC, the club that produced Northern Ireland Spain 1982 star Mal Donaghy who also began his career at Old Trafford.

Fr Mulryne attended La Salle College in west Belfast where his teachers included Sean McGourty.

“I taught him from first year onwards,” recalled Sean.

“He was always a very quiet, very pleasant type of fella and he was the build of Messi, he wasn’t a very physical player but he was a very talented player on the ball.”

St Gall’s clubman McGourty also brought Mulryne, who played his club football for Lamh Dhearg, into the school’s Gaelic Football team.

“He was a prolific player for the school and for his club,” he said.

“If he hadn’t been a soccer player he would definitely have gone on to be an inter-county Gaelic player and he would have been a quality player. He would have made a big difference to Antrim if he had come through but he went over to Manchester United when he was 16, went through their academy system and made it to the first team

“He was involved in that era with Beckham and Paul Scholes and those boys – the Class of ’92 – so he eventually moved on and had a very successful career with Norwich.”

After leaving Old Trafford for £500,000, Fr Mulryne played over 150 games for the Carrow Road side, winning promotion to the Premier League in 2004. He also made 35 appearances for Northern Ireland, scoring three goals from midfield for the North.

“The purpose of his talk on Friday evening is how a guy from Lenadoon played for Manchester United, Norwich and Northern Ireland but gave it all up to become a priest,” Sean explained.

“He is a member of the Dominican Order and he’s based in Kildare although in the summer they’re sending him to Rome for two years’ further study.

“He was from the parish of Oliver Plunkett originally and when he was ordained he came back to say his first Mass there which was a very emotional evening for a lot of people. I would have lost touch with him when he went to England but it came as a surprise to me that he had taken this route and that is the story that is to be told on Friday night – why he changed his life and gave it all up to become a priest.”

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