Injury cost Mikey Devlin a Betfred Cup final appearance and a possible Scotland debut earlier in the season, increasing the Aberdeen defender’s motivation to ensure Queen of the South don’t deny him the chance to end it back at Hampden Park.
Not that he expected to wait that long for another game at the national stadium when he left there in October after the Dons’ League Cup semi-final win against Rangers, pictures of which seemed to inspire Steven Gerrard’s side to victory at Pittodrie in midweek.
Instead a freak injury in training with the Scotland squad the following month ruled him out of their Uefa Nations League matches against Albania and Israel as well as the final that Celtic won by a solitary goal.
Now Devlin has finally recovered sufficiently to play his first game in three months as replacement for Scott McKenna who is suspended following his straight red card in that controversial defeat at home to Rangers in midweek.
The fact that in his absence Aberdeen required a replay to defeat League One side Stenhousemuir in the previous round means the former Hamilton Accies captain will take nothing for granted against today’s opponents.
That said, Devlin will only really be satisfied if he gets that delayed opportunity to play in a Hampden Park final with the prospect of ending the club’s 29-year-wait to lift the Scottish Cup.
Devlin said: “All your work is built up to making finals and you want to play in the biggest games and there’s none bigger than a cup final at Hampden. My first experience of playing there was the League Cup semi-final win against Rangers which went well for us and we got through.
“So it was disappointing for me to miss the match and not be able to help the boys in any way but they did great and only lacked the rub of the green to get the win.
“There’s an expectation at this club that you get to the latter stages of the cup competitions and we want to go one further now and actually win them”.
Of course Devlin’s recuperation is not the only tough hurdle he has had to clear as it came only 18 matches into the central defender’s return to action after a year spent out of the game recovering from the cruciate ligament injury suffered playing for Hamilton Accies.
The frustration of that experience actually helped the player cope more easily with this latest spell of rehabilitation, as did the form Aberdeen produced during that latest enforced lay-off.
He added:”It’s been a long ten weeks but I’m delighted to be back as I’ve missed a lot of football over the last couple of years.
“It was a difficult month or two but it always is when you are stopped doing what you love but I can call on that experience of being through tough times before.
“The only consolation is that the boys have been great during my time out as that helps you be patient and get yourself right.
“As much as I want to be playing again the team went on a really good run that took us back to where we should be near the top end of the league and we are still in the cup.”
For how long depends on how they handle one player in particular as Devlin said: “They’ve got one of the best scorers in British football right now in Stephen Dobbie so coming up against that is a tough task.
“We are under no illusions that it will be a difficult task to keep him quiet and he is still good enough to play at the top level”.