GIVEN the clubs' respective league positions, it is hardly surpring that James McPake, the Hibernian captain, is relishing the chance to salve the pain of last season's William Hill Scottish Cup final mauling by Hearts after yesterday's fourth-round draw paired the Edinburgh rivals.
Hibs lost 5-1 at Hampden in May, but Pat Fenlon's side have found self-belief and form in equal measure this season and sit level on points with Clydesdale Bank Premier League leaders Celtic, seven places above their city rivals, who are languishing in ninth.
McPake, who joined the Easter Road side on a permanent basis from Coventry City after leading Hibernian out at Hampden as a loan player, said: "It's the tie we all wanted. First and foremost, we're just happy to have a home tie and it will be a massive game against Hearts.
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"I had a feeling we would get them and it's a game everybody is looking forward to being a part of. But first we've got to build on our positive start to the SPL season – continuing with our game against Dundee United at Easter Road on Sunday."
The Hearts manager, John McGlynn, hopes being drawn against Hibs will be the spark that ignites his side's season.
Hearts have been unable to replicate the kind of form they displayed in the final this season following a summer of major change.
McGlynn, who replaced Paulo Sergio, said: "The game is a few weeks away so it's very important that we find our form going into that game. That means winning our matches between now and then and having everyone confident going to Easter Road. We don't want to be distracted by that game. If anything, we want it to be a motivation to be winning games. Hopefully, that'll be a real incentive for us.
"There will be some players who, from an individual point of view, want to play in this big derby game."
Yesterday's draw also set up a Highland derby, with Ross County hosting SPL rivals Inverness Caledonian Thistle, their first meeting in the competition.
Managers Terry Butcher (Inverness) and Derek Adams (Ross County) both admit that they are thrilled to have landed the showdown.
Butcher said: "I'm delighted. Once again we've been drawn away from home but at least there's not much travelling for a change. It is a great game for the area among some cracking fourth-round ties.
"It will come at the end of a month where we've got Celtic away, Aberdeen away and now Ross County away.
"Every week there seems to be bigger and bigger challenges for us but this is one we will meet head on and certainly enjoy. It will be another full house like we had in the SPL – and we go back there a month later.
"I'll leave the finances to other people, but from a football point of view it is terrific for the clubs and supporters.Every one of these derbies this season will be great occasions – and that is so exciting. It's brilliant to look forward to."
Adams confessed he would have preferred to land Caley Thistle in a later round, but was equally enthralled by the prospect. The County manager said: "I'm very happy with the draw, especially with it being at home. Our players are revelling in the home matches this season and the ground, I'm sure, will be full to capacity.
"The big games just keep coming thick and fast, but we're enjoying that aspect of it in the SPL and the cup competitions. You always want big games like these although I think both teams would have preferred to be meeting a round or two later.
"Caley Thistle, themselves, have shown in reaching the League Cup semi-finals how you can progress if you draw lower league teams and spark a run. We have no complaints. It will be another big first for Highland football in the Scottish Cup after the first SPL derby. It's a game for everyone in the area to look forward to."
Rangers and Celtic were both handed home draws. Ally McCoist's team face Irn-Bru Third Division rivals Elgin City following their 7-0 third-round win over Alloa at Ibrox. City lost 5-1 in Govan on league duty in September but sit just two points behind the league leaders in the table.
Celtic face the winners of the third-round replay between Inverurie Locos and Arbroath. The Highland League side travel to Gayfield on Saturday following a 3-3 draw at the weekend.
In the third all-SPL encounter, Aberdeen host Motherwell. The Pittodrie side knocked out Stuart McCall's men in the quarter-finals last season but the Lanarkshire side have fond memories of starting their cup campaign at Pittodrie, Stevie Kirk scoring the only goal in 1991 on their way to lifting the trophy.
Dundee United, winners in 2010, could return to Hampden early on after being drawn away to the winners of the replay between Stranraer and Queen's Park at the national stadium.
SPL bottom club Dundee face a trip to first division Livingston while Kilmarnock have been drawn at home to second division leaders Queen of the South, who are unbeaten in the league and face Partick Thistle in the Ramsdens Cup final.
St Mirren will host the winners of the replay between second division Brechin City and junior side Bonnyrigg Rose while St Johnstone travel to Fife to take on Cowdenbeath.