WHEN you are 18, professing love you believe is destined to last a lifetime can be a rather precarious old game.

Having it splattered all over Twitter is just an added, modern-day peril.

Ryan Gauld feels he is on safe ground, though. The infatuation he discusses so freely centres around his obsession with having a ball at his feet and it is a passion that has been clear for all to see in his impressive season of flicks, tricks and goals.

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If a single photograph sums up that devotion to the game, it was arguably one that appeared on social media last month of the Dundee United teenager and his flatmates John Souttar, Andy Robertson and Joe McGovern posing proudly on Magdalen Green in Dundee in the wake of an impromptu kickabout.

Gauld, nicknamed Baby Messi in some quarters, had been running around in his Barcelona shirt. Souttar was sporting the red of the Spanish national side, no doubt pretending he was Carles Puyol.

If it looked like a group of pals knocking around the local park, it's because that's precisely what it was.

Gauld takes that same carefree attitude on to the field with him, as seen in last weekend's William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final win over Rangers at Ibrox when he popped the ball through Ricky Foster's legs on the way to setting up Gary Mackay-Steven for United's second goal.

He winces at the slightest suggestion he might ever go down the road of allowing the money, the pressure, the fame or even the wrong kind of manager to blunt his raw affection for the sport. "I can't see me ever falling out of love with the game," Gauld said ahead of today's visit to St Johnstone.

"First and foremost, you have to enjoy your football. It is fun at United. You're allowed to go out and play the way you can.

"The fans will back you, too. Even if you're trying to show a certain skill and it doesn't come off, they won't give you grief. That makes you go out and play without anxiety."

Gauld is, of course, now looking forward to his first Scottish Cup final, against today's hosts at Celtic Park on May 17. "Some top-class players go through their careers and never make a cup final," said Gauld. "I'm just going to make sure that I go out there and do all I can to enjoy it."

For St Johnstone's Michael O'Halloran, being in a cup final is also the stuff or dreams. He only joined the Perth club in January, arriving after the disappointment of being shown the door at Bolton.

The 23-year-old striker, pitched into the semi-final against Aberdeen at the last minute when Lee Croft failed a fitness test, said: "I went down south when I was 16 and really enjoyed it at the beginning but when the new manager came in at Bolton, it seemed my face didn't fit.

"It was hard to take as Owen Coyle had given me a new deal then the new manager [Dougie Freedman] arrived and wanted to bring his own people in. It was tough to take but that's football and I had to move on. To come back home and to now be in a Scottish Cup final is brilliant."

St Johnstone's European friends Eskisehirspor have also made the final of their national cup competition. Close bonds were formed with Turkish side after the teams met in the Europa League last season. Eskisehirspor will face Galatasaray on May 7.

Meanwhile, the Dundee United defender Keith Watson says he is ready to fight for a Scottish Cup final place after being dropped to the bench for the semi-final.

The full-back, a cup winner with United in 2010, admitted: "When the team was named and I wasn't in it I was devastated. It was good to get on and play my part in the match. I know how special being in a final is. I know what it feels like to win one and I want that feeling again."