It would be easy to assume Celtic’s name is already on the trophy.

But Matt O’Riley is adamant Inverness Caledonian Thistle must not be disrespected ahead of June’s David and Goliath Scottish Cup final. With the Premiership title a formality, the Highland side are now all that stands between Ange Postecoglou’s team and a domestic treble.

It would be a monumental upset, one that would comfortably eclipse Caley’s famous 3-1 victory at Parkhead in 2000. That was a Celtic team in the doldrums, this is a Celtic team reaching its peak.

O’Riley, though, is refusing to entertain the notion this will be a Hampden walkover.

READ MORE: Police to have increased pyrotechnics powers for Scottish Cup final

“That’s not fair,” he said. “Inverness can get promoted as well and the bottom of the top league and the top of the second league are probably very similar and we have shown before that we haven’t always necessarily won against teams at the bottom.

“So, I don’t think it is fair to get into the frame of mind thinking that we have already won that game. It is a cup final and Inverness are going to be up for it so we will need to be as well.

“Everyone expected us to win against Motherwell, and we had good chances but couldn’t score and that could happen in the cup final as well. We will do our best but Inverness still have a chance.”

The midfielder has reclaimed his place in Postecoglou’s first choice line-up over recent weeks, having spent some time earlier in the campaign flitting in and out with Aaron Mooy, and delivered a polished performance in Sunday’s victory.

Even Rangers expected referee Don Robertson to blow for a foul on O’Riley when he was impeded by Nicolas Raskin at the edge of the box, stopping in their tracks and allowing Daizen Maeda to cross for Jota’s winning goal. O’Riley says Robertson conceded he should probably have blown his whistle – but caveated that Celtic would not have scored if he had.

“It was definitely a foul,” the 22-year-old said. “I was appealing for it and the ref told me it probably was a foul when I walked past him but he said: ‘If I’d given the foul then you guys wouldn’t have scored’ and I was like: ‘Yeah, fair enough!’

READ MORE: Create your own 'Rangers will show Celtic next time' headline

“It was a really good goal as well. We wouldn’t usually cross from that kind of area, we would usually try to work it a bit closer, but Daizen saw the opportunity and it was a great ball for the goal.”

Sunday’s contest is unlikely to be revisited for any upcoming derby classics compilation, with neither side really hitting anything like their stride. The 50-50 split inside the national stadium can create a stifling tension that filters its way down to the pitch, making for a cagey, uneven game of football.

It can then become about who keeps their head in the key moments, and this where Celtic have excelled this season, while Rangers have failed more often than not. Take Maeda and Jota being the only two players in the box to stay switched on for the Celtic goal, and contrast with Fashion Sakala missing a second open goal in as many appearances at Hampden.

“First half I thought we were really good,” said O’Riley. “We were in control for the most part. The second half was a bit chaotic and it could have been a lot calmer. But, saying that, we defended really, really well. I don't think there was ever a doubt in our mind that we would win the game.

“Even though they managed to get a few crosses into the box, we still felt very calm on the pitch, although I do think we could have relaxed a little bit more to make it easier for ourselves but it was a cup game so the most important thing was to win.


“When you are in that situation and you have a lead in a cup match, as much as you want to stay true to your principles , which I think we tried to do, it is very easy to lose that. All it takes is one mistake and they have got the momentum and vice versa so in these games it is all about weathering storms and I think we did that.”

O’Riley’s career has changed markedly since his value for money transfer from MK Dons in January last year. Swapping League One in England for the relentless, head-spinning demands of playing for one of Glasgow’s big two is a real test of any young footballer’s character.

But O’Riley has handled it with the same poise he shows on the pitch, and never gives the impression of being too up nor down. There can be few things more valuable than a level head in this part of the world.

“I learn stuff every day that I play, to be honest,” he said. “It would be crazy if I allowed myself to get carried away. But a lot of it is still new to me.

“I’m still pretty young, so I have a lot to learn but each experience helps me to learn new things and the main thing I have learned is to stay in the moment as much as possible and not get carried away with whatever, even on the pitch. If you are thinking too far ahead then you are probably not in the right frame of mind.

READ MORE: Michael Beale needs to rip it up and start again at Rangers

“It is always about staying grounded and having a steady frame of mind. If you do that then, usually, the rest takes care of itself.”

He knows the golden rule inside out, though.

“A draw is a loss, isn’t it?” O’Riley said. “That was a big thing for me when I came here. At previous club’s you could go away to a team and get a draw and you would pat yourselves on the back but here, it doesn't matter if you are at home or away to anyone, you are expected to win.  I’ve really enjoyed that challenge of having to win every game and being very competitive.”