GRAEME SHINNIE will be an Aberdeen player two days after the William Hill Scottish Cup final.

You have to have encountered him in conversation to know, genuinely, how little this currently matters. This is a young man who spent long months hospitalised and home-bound, ravaged and alarmingly weakened by illness, intent only on the distant dream of making his return for a club that stood by him when all else suggested he was done as a footballer.

Aberdeen, for now? A career move. Inverness? Exuding from his pores. Shinnie, 23, suffered a terrible bowel condition that stripped him of any semblance of muscle strength for seven months in the middle of season 2010-11. For those closest to him, it was devastating to see.

Terry Butcher, then manager, stood at his bed-side with his parents at Raigmore Hospital and, privately at least, looking at the tubes protruding from his young charge, scored chances of recovery as a top-level pro at around zero. He was a bag of bones.

Back then, the main concern was whether the once-promising defender would recover at all. It is a measure of just what he has defied and achieved that Shinnie is not only the Inverness captain in injured Richie Foran's absence but assessed, by most sensible observers, as a Scotland left-back in waiting.

It is hard to fathom, listening to his mature observations, that he is indeed just 23, but Shinnie broke into Inverness' first team at 17 and those six years of endeavour have created itchy feet. He loves the club but wants to advance, just as brother Andrew did with a move from Inverness to Birmingham City.

What Graeme would love, above all else, is to end his time at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium in the grandest of fashions.

"I have removed Aberdeen from my thoughts for now," Shinnie said. "I've done all my thinking on where my future lies. Since it has been a case of focusing on my football here at Inverness and enjoying the end of my career here.

"I've had a great seven years and some massive achievements and I want to go out with an even bigger one by getting to the cup final.

"The perfect scenario would be to cement European football and go into the cup final with that already secure. Whether that works out, we'll wait and see but I'd love to win this cup.

"It would be a massive achievement for the club and my first big trophy as well. I'd love to do it."

There is a steely desire and drive to go out on a high at the Highland capital club. "It would be amazing to get there," he said. "If we were to get through to the final, it would be my last game for the club. It would be probably one of my proudest moments if I was to wear the armband as well. That would be a huge honour.

"We'll be looking to go down there on Sunday and win the game. We've experienced losing semi-finals, as we did to Hearts a couple of years ago, and it's not nice. We don't want that. We want to go down there and win."

Inverness made back-to-back semi-finals a decade ago but, having been the club that "went ballistic" against Celtic in February 2000, while still seen by most as upstarts from the semi-pro ranks, their cup giant-killing reputation has faded with league ascent.

For Shinnie, so clearly gripped by the challenge awaiting at Hampden tomorrow, winning a trophy is the logical next step in the progression for Inverness. "The club needs to progress and achieve new things," he said. "For the last two seasons, we've been on the verge of Europe and reached the League Cup final last season.

"It seems over the last couple of years we've not so much failed at what we've done, but not gone that final step. Europe is a massive thing for us this season and we're in a strong position.

"To win the cup would be massive as well. If I can leave here having won a cup and qualified for Europe it would be a perfect way to go out.

"In previous seasons we've fallen away a wee bit at this time of year. We're going through a bit of a sticky patch right now and need to get back to winning ways.

"There would be no better way than to do that on Sunday. We can take great confidence from the way we played against Celtic on Saturday, so we know what we're going to get and what we have to do.

"As long as we're on top of our game, we're definitely in with a chance."

Watching clubs of similar, modest size attain trophy success has only fuelled the Highlanders' dream of achieving the same. "Watching St Johnstone last season win it definitely, in my head anyway, gave us belief we could do the same," Shinnie said. "We're similar in many ways to St Johnstone budget-wise and in not having a massive squad.

"The team spirit at both clubs seems really high. Watching them do it last season had me saying we should go and do the same."

There is, of course, the small matter of Celtic standing in the path of the big dream. Shinnie, though, has been embedded all his career at a club that has made a habit of downing the Glasgow giants, whether under John Barnes, Martin O'Neill, Gordon Strachan, Neil Lennon or, yes, this season, under Ronny Deila.

There is, then, appreciation of the challenge facing Inverness but no fear or self-doubt. "It helps that we've beaten them in the past, but you never really know what is in store at Hampden and in the cup," Shinnie acknowledged. "It will be my first time there at the national stadium. In the cup, anything can happen. The boys need to be prepared for anything as we know from going all the way to penalties with Aberdeen last year.

"We played before 50,000 against the Dons and you want to play in these atmospheres, with full stadiums and a lot of people watching on television.

"It's a cup semi-final so you want all the hype, all the drama - it's what you love as a player. The only real way you can enjoy it is by winning.

"I've been to Hampden before to watch Scotland and experienced the crowds there, but I've never actually been on the pitch. I'm looking forward to playing down there.

"I don't think many of our lads, if any, will have played there, especially in this kind of occasion. It's a case of trying to block that out as much as you can, focusing on the game and going out and doing the business.

"Playing Celtic, the heat is always on them. No matter who, they would always be favourites in this type of game. I wouldn't say the pressure is off us because we're putting pressure on ourselves to go and win the game.

"But it would be more of a shock if we were to beat them than them beat us. They're looking to win the treble, we're looking to get to our first Scottish Cup final and win the first big trophy for the club.

"Both teams have massive ambitions and we need to focus on ours. We've beaten them this season at home and we drew on Saturday so we'll take massive positives from that. A few of the boys were here when we beat them in Glasgow the year before.

"We definitely know how to beat them. A semi-final is a different occasion from the league but if we can perform to our best and Celtic have an off-day, we'll definitely be in with a shout."