Exiting the Scottish Cup at the hands of Celtic players the Aussie described as ‘class’, the capital men tried to push aside the disappointment as thoughts immediately shifted to their league position and their determination to see out the season in third place of the cinch Premiership and book European group stage football for a second successive year.
“When we set our targets at the start of the season it was to get a trophy to bring back to Hearts,” said Devlin in the wake of Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Tynecastle. “That was one of our goals but the reality is that it is not to be. I think this group we have here is a very special one. We have brought success to Hearts, coming up from the Championship and getting third and getting European football which we hadn’t had in a long time. But, we want to look at the league now and get third and get in the group stages again because what an experience it was for everybody. Not just for us boys but for the whole football club and for the fans. You could feel how important it was to them, having that European football, so we have to pick ourselves up. We have a massive game against Aberdeen next and cementing third is our only focus now.”
Hearts are five points ahead of city rivals Hibs, who lead the chasing pack and who, in all probability, will face them twice before the curtain falls. There are now just 10 games remaining – five pre and five post split – but Devlin says that he won’t be casting a worried glance over his shoulder. “Nah, I just tend to look forward," he said. “Obviously we had a really disappointing game against Motherwell a couple of weeks ago but we bounced back really well against St Johnstone. We won 3-0 and had a clean sheet which is really important. If you look behind you, you are probably going to fall back so just focus on ourselves. We are confident with what we have got in the dressing room and we can do a job.”
And, the upcoming international break could help as manager Robbie Neilson tries to get a few of his injured stars back for the final run-in. “It happens,” said Devlin, who has had his own injury woes to contend with throughout the campaign. “Before the World Cup break we had injuries piling up. It felt like we had one every game and there’s a few at the moment.But they are working as hard as they can to help the team and hopefully they’ll be back soon. It’s the worst thing in football. I know each one of them will be hurting as much as us and thinking they could have contributed.”
But, on the day, Celtic were too good and capitalised on Hearts’ frailties. “They’re a good team,” added Devlin. “There’s no denying that. As a fellow team-mate with the national team I have nothing but admiration for [Aaron Mooy, who opened the scoring]. I hate saying that when he’s been on the opposing team. But I have grown up watching him in the A-League and then the Premier League and as a fellow Aussie I do admire him. I just wish we’d got one over him.”