The Scottish Cup continues to have a magnetic quality for Hearts and Hibs. For the third time in five years, it has drawn them together.
The Edinburgh rivals, of course, have experienced very different relationships with the tournament with those of a maroon persuasion enjoying by far the happier memories of their involvement.
Hearts will be favourites to win the fifth-round tie between the pair next month, both on the basis of having home advantage at Tynecastle and their current status at the top end of the Scottish Premiership. But while reclaiming their own top-flight status is the priority for Hibs this season, the Championship title contenders will travel across the city in optimistic mood, according to midfielder Dylan McGeouch.
“It’s a great draw and everyone involved will be buzzing,” said McGeouch. “It’s an opportunity of a derby away day at Tynecastle and we’re looking forward to it. A lot of people will see this as the tie of the round because the derby catches the imagination. We are all excited about it and it’s a chance to put down a bit of a marker. We’ve been doing well this season and the Scottish Cup is another good opportunity for us to do well.
“We had a good run last season and got to the semi-finals at Hampden. We’ve also got the League Cup semi-final against St Johnstone to look forward to at the end of this month at Tynecastle and then we’ll be back there the following week.
“It’s a huge couple of games for us. I wasn’t at the club when we lost 5-1 in the 2012 final – I don’t think the fans want to talk about it too much! It was long before my time and most of the people in the squad so I don’t think that will have any bearing at all on this tie. We’ve beaten Premiership opposition this season. Aberdeen were flying when they came to us at the start of the season and we beat them in the League Cup, so we know what we’re capable of against the top teams.
“We’re better equipped this year to face a team like Hearts. When teams wanted to get physical with us last season, we didn’t cope with it well enough, but we’ve been able to win ugly this season.
“On our day, when we get the ball down, we’re a match for anyone. Hearts and ourselves have both made changes from last season. I really enjoyed the derby games I played against them in the Championship last season. There was a lot of good football and the game in a few weeks won’t be any different.
“But, if it ends up a physical game, then we’ve also got that steel in our team and ability can take over after that.”
After that humiliation in the 2012 final, Hibs secured a measure of consolation the following year when they knocked Hearts out in the fourth round with a 1-0 win at Easter Road.
Hearts striker Gavin Reilly believes the latest Tynecastle derby will give someone the chance to write their names into the history books and become a long-standing hero among the supporters.
“You could come on for a minute, score a goal and become a hero forever,” said Reilly. “That’s want you want to do and the boys at Hibs will be the same. You can go into folklore. You need to go into every game wanting to win but you get that bit extra motivation when you are involved in such a big occasion. All the lads will be looking forward to it as much as I am.
“It is a great tie to be involved in, definitely the tie of the round. It’s got everything. Hibs are doing well in the Championship, as are we in the Premiership, and while there is that gap in league, it is a derby, it’s anyone’s game and I think we can go on and win it because we are playing well.
“We had a good victory in the Scottish Cup against Aberdeen at the weekend, we are doing not too badly in the league, so, hopefully, we can take that into the Hibs tie.
“I didn’t think I would get the chance to play a derby this season. So this just adds spice to the season. The league is great, but the cup gives something different to the fans and maybe even a trip to Hampden.
“We have a big hurdle to get there, but to win the cup means you have to beat the big teams. Hopefully, we can go on and do that.”
Reilly, who joined from Queen of the South in the summer, reckons Hearts made their intentions clear with Saturday’s elimination of Aberdeen and was unconcerned by Derek McInnes’s post-match complaints about time-wasting.
He said: “We laid down a marker at the weekend. We had lost twice to Aberdeen, so to beat them in the cup was great. It was a big game and we showed how good a team we are.
“Their complaints really didn’t get to me. We just go about our business and don’t care what other folk say.
“We just go into every game wanting to give 100 per cent and win the game. If folk want to describe our play as something that is not normal, then that’s up to them.”