This will be his 34th Edinburgh derby – but the buzz of the big day is still the same for Hibs stalwart Paul Hanlon.
The defender has been in remarkable form this term and has earned himself a Scotland debut with Hibs flying high in the Premiership. Another big game awaits Hanlon this weekend as the Hibees face Hearts in a Scottish Cup semi-final.
One of five members of the 2016 Scottish Cup winning squad still at Easter Road, Hanlon has faced Hearts more than any other club in his career. It’s an occasion he still relishes.
“It’s a game we have been looking forward to for a long time, we’ve had a lot of league fixtures to take care of but it’s always been at the back of our minds,” said Hanlon.
“It’s still as exciting as my first one. I think you appreciate it more now I would say. When you’re young you think about how great it is and this will happen so many times.
“But you realise how much work you need to put in to stay in the team and at a level where you can be picked by the manager. You definitely appreciate it, especially when it comes to big semi-final matches like this.
“You want to do as well as you can as you don’t know how many times you will get to play in these big games.”
Whilst Hearts are in the Championship at the moment, Hanlon is in no way underestimating Hibs’ Edinburgh rivals on Saturday. He says confidence that has had Jack Ross’ side lose just twice in the league so far this term must be carried into the match.
“It’s a different competition so it’s not really a case of building on our league form any more,” explained the centre-back. “It’s just a case of using the confidence that we have built up throughout this easily part of the season to take it into this game
“We need to understand what we have done well in games, what we can still improve on and try to put it all together this weekend.
“The fact that Hearts are in the Championship is irrelevant. It’s and Edinburgh derby and they have a squad with good players in it and they have started their season well so it’s going to be a difficult game, but on the plus side so have we.
“We have started this season great. We’ve got a number of games under our belt and performed well in so we just have to take that into the weekend.”