Life after football: Northern Irish midfielder training to join the priesthood

Former Manchester United player Phil Mulryne has turned to the Catholic church in an unusual career move.

Mulryne played in Manchester United's reserves before joining Norwich City in 1999.
Mulryne played in Manchester United's reserves before joining Norwich City in 1999.
Image: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

WHEN THE SHORT career of a professional footballer ends, they are often at a loss as to which path to take next.

While some are content with living off their millions and spending their days on the golf course, management and remaining in the game is another popular choice.

Phil Mulryne, however, picked one less travelled.

The former Norwich City midfielder and Northern Ireland international hung up his boots four years ago and has since set his sights on being ordained as a Catholic priest.

The 34-year-old Belfast native came through Manchester United’s ranks and played in the 1995 FA Youth Cup winning side alongside Phil Neville, Ronnie Wallwork and Dessie Baker before making one first-team appearance and moving on to the Canaries, where he became a fan favourite.

He also played 27 times for his country until injury called a halt to his playing days and has now taken the unusual step of relocating to Rome and enlisting at the Pontifical Irish College.

Former team-mate and sports presenter Paul McVeigh visited Mulryne in Italy recently and wrote about it on his website,

When I arrived in Rome, I was met by a very contented looking Phil who took me back to the Irish college where he was to based for the next 4 years,” McVeigh said in his blog.

“I know for a fact that this is not something he took lightly as the training to be ordained as a Catholic priest consists of a 2 year philosophy degree, followed by a 4 year theology degree and only after that will he finally be qualified as a priest!

“The pinnacle came when I was asked did I want to play 5-a-side with the other priests and much to my surprise was very impressed when, not only did they have a lot of skill and control but were also ‘sticking the boot’ in when needed to. That, I didn’t expect!”

Here is Mulryne scoring on his international debut for Northern Ireland against Belgium in 1997:

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Ben Blake

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