Ex-NI football star Mulryne ordained into the priesthood
Philip Mulryne, the former Northern Ireland football international and now newly-ordained priest, has been hailed as an inspiration to young people.
The 39-year-old ex-Manchester United player, originally from Belfast, will say his first Mass at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Dunmurry tonight.
Father Mulryne was ordained on Saturday at a ceremony in Dublin attended by family and friends. He will be assigned to the Dominican Priory to join the chaplaincy team at Newbridge College, Co Kildare.
Speaking ahead of tonight's Mass, Father Martin Magill, who was parish priest at St Oliver Plunkett from 2003 until 2013, said the former footballer had a strong message to convey about faith and sport.
He said: "I know Philip personally as he was one of my parishioners.
"The funny thing is, I had no idea who he was because I don't follow football.
"I just saw him as a young man for whom his faith was clearly important.
"He regularly attended Mass and the sacraments and I got to know him in that capacity. He was very impressive."
Father Magill said it was only when the two of them went out for a meal together in 2005 that Philip revealed he had played for Manchester United.
"At that particular stage I think he was beginning to consider the priesthood," he said.
"It was no surprise to me because his faith was clearly very important to him.
"He's a fine example of someone who takes his faith seriously, especially coming from the sporting world.
"We hope Philip will come and share his powerful story at some stage within the diocese of Down and Connor because it has a huge amount to say to young people today.
"It sends out a positive message about being able to enjoy the world of sport and at the same time to be a person of faith. It shows that you can do both."
Fr Mulryne was ordained by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia in Dublin's St Saviour's Church.
During the ceremony, the archbishop said Philip had shown his "readiness to embrace the service to which you have been called".
"Whatever gain you had, you have counted as loss," he added.
"In a real sense, your 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."
Mulryne was spotted by Manchester United scouts when he was just 14 while playing for his local parish team, St Oliver Plunkett.
He signed a four-year professional deal after finishing school in 1994 and made his debut against Ipswich Town in 1997 - the first of his five games for the first team.
He later went to Norwich City and there were also spells at Cardiff City and Leyton Orient.
The Belfast man made his Northern Ireland debut in 1997 against Belgium and went on to play 27 times for his country, scoring three goals.
In 2005 he was suspended for a breach of discipline and missed two World Cup qualifying games.
After officially retiring from the game in 2009, he entered the Diocesan seminary of St Malachy's in Belfast.
He studied philosophy for two years at Queen's University before entering the Dominican novitiate house in Cork.
He became a deacon last year and has now joined the Dominican Priory, where he will take a vow of poverty.