After tasting Cardiff City v Swansea City as well as making his Hearts debut in an Edinburgh derby last season, he more than understands the special properties of such fiercely contested clashes.
But Don Cowie has expressed the hope that Hibs “play a bit more football” in tonight’s Scottish Cup fifth round replay.
There is ample reason for this double-edged comment given Cowie’s own participation in tonight’s replay hinges on him having sufficiently recovered from a painful injury picked up the first meeting between the sides.
The 34-year-old midfielder was on the wrong end of a collision with committed Hibs defender Darren McGregor early in the 0-0 draw and was eventually replaced after 79 minutes, having battled on for longer than expected.
Such an experienced player as Cowie knows the way things are. Last weekend’s game was never going to be a festival of football, particularly given the state of the Tynecastle pitch. “Hibs have got some very good footballers as well but sometimes things dictate the way you play a game,” he said. “They’ve got players in midfield like [John] McGinn and [Fraser] Fyvie, who want to get the ball down and pass it. They are a good footballing team and hopefully on Wednesday we will see a bit more of that.”
Having sustained bruised ribs, a particularly painful injury he reports, in the original tie, Cowie only returned to training on Monday after missing his side’s 1-1 draw with Inverness on Saturday.
Does he feel the challenge from McGregor was in any way malicious or simply an accident? “You can decide,” he said. “He got booked. Did he apologise? I don’t think he thought he did much wrong. It was just one of those coming together things.
“Hopefully I will be available for selection on Wednesday night,” he added. “It was my ribs. He is a big lad that ran into me. He really knocked me and I was struggling last week. But as each day goes by I am getting better.
“It’s been sore. There’s been a few sneezes and things like that that have not been pleasant! I did fear a rib was cracked but it wasn’t. Whether it’s bruised or cracked there’s nothing you can do except get on with it.”
Cowie hasn’t had his injury troubles to seek in recent weeks. He was involved in a nasty collision with Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain in Hearts’ 3-2 defeat at Dens just before Christmas and had to be rushed to Ninewells hospital in a neck brace. “Thankfully, it was a just a bit of whiplash,” he said.
But no wonder he plans on making sure his two young children are tucked up in bed tonight rather than coming to watch their father put his body on the line in another inevitably hard-fought derby. Despite the better surface at Easter Road it could well be another X-certificate clash.
“Hibs probably played the conditions better than we did in the first game,” admitted Cowie. “They had big Grant Holt up front who is experienced. He knows what he’s doing. He can win fouls. But we stood up to it and we probably had the clearer chances but were unable to take them.”
Indeed, Cowie can count friends as well as foes in the opposition ranks tonight. He played with Holt at Wigan and so was not surprised by his old team-mate’s effective performance in the first game at Tynecastle, when the veteran striker was in his element.
“He’s not played in the Premier League for the years he did and not been on the verge of an England call-up if he didn’t know what he was doing,” said Cowie. “He’s a clever player and he plays to his strengths.”
Some would go as far as to say wily, but Cowie refused to pin this charge on Holt. “It’s not a case of being clued up,” said Cowie. “He’s experienced and he’s not doing anything illegal. It’s about having savvy and experience in these big games. I got on well with him at Wigan and we are still in touch now.”
Cowie made himself scarce when Hibs were parading the trophy in Edinburgh last May but tips his hat to their success. With a home draw to come against Ayr United in the last eight, both sides are alert to the opportunity at stake this evening.
“It’s tough but at the same time, you’ve got to appreciate what they [Hibs] achieved,” said Cowie. “They got to two cup finals, and they were playing in the Championship at the time. To do that was a great achievement. They managed to win one of the trophies and took many Premiership scalps along the way. You have to give them a lot of respect for what they’ve done.
“It’s tough because you want it to be you that’s winning trophies, but at the same time, it gives you that motivation. You see the celebrations in the city and that’s something that we’ve got to strive for.
“The important thing is we just want to win this game. As a group, we want to start achieving things, whether we are at the end of our career, start of our career or the middle. You want to win trophies and this is a great chance for us to win a trophy.”