Former Manchester United footballer turned priest describes importance of faith and family in sport

Former Manchester United footballer Philip Mulryan speaking at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Suzanne McGonagle and PA

A FORMER Manchester United footballer from Belfast who became a priest spoke about the importance yesterday of faith and family in sport during a World Meeting of Families discussion in Dublin.

Fr Philip Mulryne, who grew up in the Lenadoon area of west Belfast, played under Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford and represented Northern Ireland at international level.

But after becoming disillusioned with his life as a professional footballer, he was ordained a priest for the Dominican Order in July last year.

Yesterday he joined Olive Foley, widow of Irish rugby legend Anthony 'Axel' Foley, rugby star Ronan O'Gara and Kerry GAA all-Ireland winner Aidan O'Mahony who all spoke about their faith at the event in Dublin's RDS.

The cleric described his decision to become a priest, how he fell away from his faith as a soccer star and returned to it later in his career.

He hailed managers Alex Ferguson and Malky Mackay for creating family values within successful teams, teaching young players humility and dedication, adding that as a homesick youngster, Alex Ferguson would phone his mother in Belfast to reassure her that her son was coping away from home.

Mrs Foley received a standing ovation after an emotional speech about losing her husband, who was head coach for Munster Rugby Club.

Breaking down, she said the support she and her two sons had received in the wake of his sudden death from a heart attack in 2016, was priceless.

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