Michael Devlin marked his Hampden debut with a man- of-the-match display to help Aberdeen shut out Rangers and reach the Betfred Cup final.
Having waited patiently to finally experience playing at the national stadium, Devlin now hopes to become a regular fixture at the venue for both club and country.
The 25-year-old Aberdeen defender’s role in his side’s 1-0 win in Sunday’s semi-final was another positive step in a season which has seen him put a year-long absence caused by a serious knee injury firmly behind him.
Devlin’s form also saw him called into the Scotland squad earlier this month as a late replacement following injury withdrawals for the friendly against Portugal. Although he didn’t feature in the match, it has encouraged his belief he will get other chances to play for his country.
“It’s got to whet your appetite for more,” said Devlin. “I’m delighted to be part of it and I’m grateful to the manager for giving me the opportunity to go in and be a part of it and learn and see what that level is like to operate at.
“You know what you’re striving for. You know that playing for Aberdeen you’re always under the microscope and you’ve always got a chance of a Scotland call-up if you’re performing well. The likes of Graeme Shinnie and Scott McKenna have done it – Scott in particular has kicked on for Scotland. So if you keep your club form up you’ve always got an opportunity.”
Devlin admits that Aberdeen didn’t produce a high level performance against Rangers but took great satisfaction from the resilience and tactical discipline which allowed them to get the job done against Steven Gerrard’s team.
“It probably wasn’t our best football performance on the ball,” said Devlin. “But we defended well as a team. We limited Rangers to a few shots from outside the box. I can’t think of Joe Lewis having too many world-class saves. We know he’s capable of doing that if we need it but overall I thought we deserved it.
“We took our chance when it came and were always a threat on the counter. We could have used the ball a bit better, I don’t think there’s any arguments about that, but I thought we hung in and defended brilliantly and showed great desire and character.
“All the hard work I’ve put in to get back from the injury is kind of geared up for an occasion like that. As a team, I thought to a man we were brilliant. There were elements of the game we could have done better but I’m just delighted to get to a final.”
Devlin hailed the display of Lewis Ferguson, his fellow former Hamilton player, who scored Aberdeen’s 79th-minute winner. He was surprised but thrilled when the 19-year-old, pictured, joined him at Pittodrie in the summer.
“The manager had mentioned he liked Lewis but it was a bolt out of the blue for me as well when he signed,” added Devlin. “The gaffer keeps things close to his chest. Fergie’s made a massive impact since he joined the club. Given his age as well, he’s full of potential and to handle an occasion like he did on Sunday is something special.
“We all saw at Hamilton he was capable of that and credit to the guys there. George Cairns, the head of youth at Hamilton, instils that mentality in them coming through and that’s what is serving Fergie well right now, playing week in and week out. Obviously Aberdeen have taken that on and developed it further, playing in big games week after week.”
Devlin and Ferguson will face their former club at Pittodrie tomorrow night as they look to improve their erratic Premiership form.
“That’s the disappointing thing for us, our league form,” he added. “We can’t quite get that bit of consistency that’s expected here so we just need to keep working at that.
“I’m looking forward to playing against Hamilton for the first time. When the fixtures came out that was the one I looked for. I’m looking forward to going up against them.
“They’ve made a lot of signings and a lot new of new faces. But some of the old faces are still there and it will be good to catch up with them. As soon as the whistle goes, though, I’ll put it out my mind for 90 minutes.”