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'You never know': Hearts' Bobby Burns out to fulfil Scottish Cup dream against Celtic

Hearts v Celtic, William Hill Scottish Cup Final, Hampden Park, Saturday, 3.00pm

Top talent: Bobby Burns in action for Hearts
Top talent: Bobby Burns in action for Hearts
Northern Ireland international Michael Smith, who also plays for Hearts

By Steven Beacom

Young Bobby Burns has been a Hearts player for just over a year. In that time he has become a key figure for the Edinburgh outfit, scored his first Scottish Premiership goal, played in a victory over Rangers while on loan at Livingston and could end the season by featuring in the Scottish Cup final against treble chasing Celtic.

Talk about hitting the ground running. The 19-year-old from Belfast has also found time to improve his golf, study for an Open University degree and arrange a dream trip for his beloved mum.

So much has happened Burns since he left Glenavon last May.

The gifted left-back has come a long way in a short space of time.

You just know, though, that the one time head boy of St Malachy's College is not going to get too big for his boots.

He's still the mannerly young man who conducted interviews in such an articulate manner while at Mourneview Park.

Confident but not arrogant, with a fierce determination to succeed in whatever he turns his attention to.

Rested against Celtic for the weekend league meeting, Hearts boss Craig Levein would have no fears throwing Burns into the heat of a Hampden Cup final on Saturday versus Neil Lennon's Hoops.

Burns said: "I'd love to play in the final. It would be the biggest game of my career so far, though even to be in the squad at my age for a match like that would be great.

"We are in the final on merit and, although Celtic are a fantastic side and will be big favourites, you just never know."

One of the many qualities to admire in Burns is that he doesn't forget where he comes from. He talks about the Irish League with fondness and outlines the influence of his ex-manager Gary Hamilton in his progression, which this season saw him play several times early on for Hearts before having a successful loan period at Livingston prior to returning to Tynecastle in January.

"I'm forever grateful that Gary Hamilton gave me my chance at Glenavon. He was very good for me," Burns added.

"I'll always have good memories from my time at Glenavon. I remember being 15 in my first year at the club and I was at the Irish Cup semi-final when Kevin Braniff scored four against Crusaders to take us through.

"That was an incredible night and I remember thinking I'd love to play in an Irish Cup semi-final and get to the final. To be over in Scotland and to have done that in the Scottish Cup is unbelievable."

Burns has enjoyed his first 12 months in Scotland, bar two months when he suffered a groin injury after going back to Hearts from being on loan at Livingston.

Playing in a famous 1-0 win for Livvy in September versus Rangers seemed light years away when he was out of action.

He admitted to feeling homesick in that period but has kicked on since his recovery, revealing that he was inspired by Northern Ireland duo Aaron Hughes, who is set to retire, and Michael Smith.

"The Northern Irish boys, Hughesy and Michael, have been a big plus for me," he said.

"Hughesy and I would go play golf quite a bit. He's a class guy and a great role model for me. He does everything right and he keeps you doing the right things. Michael is another good role model. He came through the Irish League as well and gives good advice.

"All in all I've really enjoyed my first year. I was feeling a bit homesick when I had my injury but everything has been going well since getting back to playing again.

"I've learned a lot off the pitch, living away from home. I've learned how to cook and I'm okay at a chicken risotto. I'm delighted I didn't come over until last year when I was 18. At 16 it would have been very tough."

Burns has many Celtic supporting friends but his family will be right behind Hearts at Hampden. Mum Therese, dad Thomas and brothers Paddy, another promising footballer, and Malachy will be there cheering their boy on.

"There wasn't as much demand for tickets to go and see Aberdeen away as there has been for the Cup final," joked the Northern Ireland Under-21 international, destined to play for the senior side in the future. After the final Bobby and Therese have a journey to savour.

"I got my mum a present on Mother's Day. I'm taking her away to Rome for a holiday at the end of May. My mum hadn't been too well but thankfully she is keeping better now," he added with a smile.

"My two brothers are doing A-levels and GCSE exams and my dad has to work and take care of them, so it's just me and my mum. Neither of us have been to Rome before and we are really looking forward to it."

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