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Celtic stars deny IRA chant; SINGING HOOPS PLAYERS CAUGHT IN SECTARIAN ROW.

Byline: By JUDE SHEERIN

TWO Celtic players have denied making sectarian chants at a supporters' function.

Stephen Pearson, 23, and 29-year-old John Hartson appeared on an amateur video in which shouts of "IRA" could be heard from people present.

Scotland international Pearson and Wales striker Hartson strongly denied taking part in the chants.

The grainy footage, widely distributed on the internet, shows the players on stage with three fans during a boisterous singalong in Donegal.

Both players join in a rendition of the Fields Of Athenry. The song, a favourite of the Glasgow club's fans, is punctuated by shouts of "IRA" and "Sinn Fein" on the video but both players insist they did not join in any chants.

A Celtic spokesman said: "We can't comment specifically on this as the club and both players are currently considering their legal options.

"However, anyone who knows Stephen and John will be clear that suggestions of sectarian behaviour on their part are utterly laughable."

Pearson's agent Willie McKay said: "Stephen's seen the video and he said he sang Fields Of Athenry, but never shouted 'IRA'."

Hartson's agent, Jonathan Barnett, dismissed the report as "complete rubbish".

Celtic have won plaudits from Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell for their campaign to stamp out bigotry.

ulster@mirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

SONG: Hartson, left, and Pearson, right, on mobile phone video' HOOPS: Hartson & Pearson' SNAPPED: Players singing with fans
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 7, 2006
Words:233
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