From Man Utd. to the priesthoodFr Philip Mulryne’s remarkable journey

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

Share this Post

There is a story, told by George Best, of a waiter who delivered a couple of bottles of champagne to his hotel room, where he was luxuriating with the recently crowned Miss World. Having won some money at the races earlier that day, money which was strewn on the bed, the waiter surveyed the room. And, with Best’s early retirement from football on his mind, he asked, “George, where did it all go wrong?”

It’s an amusing story, but for George Best, it masked a tragedy. The money, the glamour, the women and the fast cars were simply not enough.

That theme was central to the story of Philip Mulryne, as he spoke to Sean O’Rourke this morning. His early life had so many echoes of George Best – moving from Northern Ireland to sign as a young man to Manchester United, living the high life – but the endpoint of his journey is so vastly different.

Philip Mulryne is now Fr Philip Mulryne, ordained last Saturday as a priest with the Dominican order, and saying his first mass on Monday night in the church he attended as a child.

How did he reach this destination, from such an unlikely beginning? It started at an age when most players are, typically, at their peak.

“At the age of 28, I had to stop and think, why is this stuff not satisfying me? I’m bored. It’s not enough. Nothing is ever enough. It led me to more profound questions on faith. Is there a part of the human person that is not going to be satisfied by these things? And ultimately, coming from a faith background, I know the reason for those things. We are made for much more.”

The “stuff” Philip was referring to is nothing more than you would expect in the life a professional, Premier league footballer.

“There is no running away from that. Obviously, I lived the life of a footballer as it’s been documented. As it’s been portrayed, it’s pretty much the reality. A lot of things are given to young men very quickly…… I was buying cars and then I was selling them three months later. Buying another one. Getting bored of it. I had a Ferrari 360 Modena. It was my dream car. I always said, if I get to the Premier league with Norwich, I will get one of those. So I got one in the end.”

The material trappings of football success, and the frequent negative fallout from those trappings, have been the stuff of tabloid headlines for decades. But for Philip, there seemed to be an emptiness in that level of materialism. The Ferrari 360 Modena, described by Philip as his dream car, a picture of which he had on his bedroom wall as a kid, he sold just four months after buying it. Quite simply, he got bored of it.

Philip Mulryne was spotted in West Belfast as a youngster. He played first-team football five times for Manchester United, sharing the field with the likes of David Beckham and Roy Keane, before moving to Norwich city. He also won 27 caps for Northern Ireland. At one stage in his career, he was earning £500,000 per year.

Nowadays, he says, a lot of young players are coached in financial management, media management, and so on. But back then, in the 1990s, “it was thrust upon you. It was hard to deal with sometimes.”

To listen to the full story of Fr Philip Mulryne, as told on the Today programme, click here.

© The Listener 2017

Share this Post

Next Up