While it’s difficult to draw on much in the way of positives following a 5-0 loss at the home of the champions, the performance of Jimmy Dunne was one crumb of comfort for Hearts head coach Craig Levein.
Although it was a difficult afternoon in the east end of Glasgow for everyone in maroon, Dunne, alongside goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal, helped prevent a far greater defeat.
In his three months at the club, the young Irishman has experienced the cauldrons of Celtic Park and Ibrox, not to mention the toxic atmosphere of last Wednesday’s Edinburgh derby against Hibs. Throw a Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic into the equation – where more than 61,000 fans turned out at BT Murrayfield – to say it’s been a steep learning curve for Dunne would be an understatement.
Having arrived on loan from English Premier League club Burnley in August just days after club captain Christophe Berra suffered a torn hamstring, Dunne has been outstanding in his 12 appearances in Hearts’ defence.
Initially striking up a strong partnership with John Souttar, the young Irishman has had more responsibilty thrust upon him following the enforced absence of the Scotland internationalist due to hip surgery.
Now partnered by Congolese defender Clevid Dikamona, Dunne has more than stepped up to the plate.
The maturity shown by the player goes way beyond his 21 years and that’s testament to his willingness to embrace the chance he’s been given at Hearts.
Despite the defeats to Rangers and Celtic, Dunne has excelled regularly, earning the plaudits of his manager, team-mates and supporters alike.
He has intimated a desire to extend his loan deal beyond January 7 and, with Berra and Souttar sidelined long term, Levein is keen to keep the player in Gorgie until the end of the season.
Dunne himself is gaining the type of experience he would struggle to find down south and his game is developing at a rapid rate as he hopes to convince Burnley boss Sean Dyche he has a role to play in the Premier League.
An extension of his loan agreement makes absolute sense for both parties and an announcement in January would be a huge boost for Hearts as they look to negotiate the second part of the Premiership season.