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Ex-Manchester United star Philip Mulryne takes part in his first mass as a priest

Former Manchester United player Philip Mulryne during his inaugural mass at St Oliver Plunkett Church in West Belfast following his ordination. Credit: Press Association

A former Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer ordained to the priesthood has taken part in his first Mass.

Philip Mulryne, 39, returned to his native Belfast for a special Catholic religious service at St Oliver Plunkett Church.

The new priest was joined by friends and well-wishers at Monday night's Mass - just a few miles from Windsor Park Stadium, where he once donned the green jersey of his home country - flanked by white-robed members of his order.

The product of the youth system at Old Trafford made his debut for the first team in 1997.

He was unable to secure a regular place in Alex Ferguson's side and left Manchester to continue his playing career at clubs including Norwich City, Cardiff City and Leyton Orient.

The clergyman said his vocation was a calling.

"This is a new chapter now in my life."

He undertook the rites associated with Catholicism, assisted by a more senior cleric, involving the blessing of sacraments, according to Catholic doctrine transforming bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

Mass-goers heard how his vocation as a friar preacher should be to "set hearts on fire" with the love of Jesus.

He was made a member of the Dominican Order at an ordination at St Saviour's church in north Dublin at the weekend.