'I'll get abuse because I'm a Catholic,' says Towell

RICHIE Towell, who is on loan from Celtic to Hibernian, said yesterday that as an Irish Catholic he has met with more hostility at Tynecastle than at Ibrox.

The right-back, who will line up for Hibs in tomorrow's Edinburgh derby at Easter Road, called the abuse directed at him "enjoyable" and said he used it as a motivating factor.

Nonetheless, his comments will heighten tension in the build-up to the game and could open up a new debate about sectarianism outwith the big two Glasgow clubs.

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"When you go to Ibrox you realise how big the Old Firm rivalry is, but even when we went to play against Hearts you could see how their fans are and how they react to Celtic players," said Towell, a 19-year-old from Dublin who moved to Easter Road from Celtic in the January transfer window.

"I'm sure they will be the same with Hibs players. It will be good: I'll be looking forward to it."

Asked if he believed the Hearts supporters would subject him in particular to more abuse, Towell continued: "Yeah, especially as I'm an Irish boy, and a Catholic as well. I think they'll take it out a bit more on me, so I'll have to be on my guard against that.

"Even just warming up they give you a bit. Everywhere you go you're going to get that no matter what. I thought it was even a bit worse at Hearts than it was at Rangers. But I think that gets you going - it's enjoyable. I'm looking forward to it.

"It brings out the best in you when you're getting a bit of stick. It makes you want to give everything and makes you try harder."

Tomorrow's attendance will be the biggest he has played in front of and he hopes to play his part in securing the win which would keep alive Hibs' hopes of getting into the top six .

"I'd love to help Hibs get into the top six so we could get a game at Tynecastle after the split. That's what you want - to be playing against the big teams. It can only improve you."