THE third meeting of the season between Celtic and Rangers this coming weekend was tantalising enough as it was without a certain Jason Cummings being thrown into the mix.

Yet, the mouthwatering prospect of Cummings being handed a Rangers starting slot at Ibrox on Sunday is now a very real one, even if Jamie Murphy, the player he came in to replace in yesterday’s 4-1 Scottish Cup quarter-final victory over Falkirk, recovers from injury in time to be considered.

Graeme Murty will find it very difficult to leave the irrepressible forward out of his starting line-up given the hat-trick he netted – the first, incredibly, of his professional career.

The 22-year-old had last started a game in the William Hill Scottish Cup last 16 match against Ayr United at Somerset Park some three weeks earlier – despite scoring the goal of the fifth round during it.

But Cummings showed no signs of rustiness. Quite the opposite in fact.

The quality of the hitman’s opening brace in the first-half was hugely impressive.

He curled the first past Robbie Thomson and into the side of the net from an acute angle in the 16th minute. He then controlled a pass from Andy Halliday and drilled the ball into the bottom right corner with his left foot five minutes later.

His third with 15 minutes of regulation time remaining was less eye-catching.

But he was well positioned in the opposition box when Thomson denied Alfredo Morelos with a fine save and side-footed into an inviting empty net.

Murphy, who missed out due to the toe injury he sustained in the 4-1 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Tuesday evening, has been performing at a high level and will come into contention if he regains fitness in the coming days.

He is a natural wide player. The game yesterday was the first time his team-mate has played in the position. Given that first-choice Celtic right back Mikael Lustig will be suspended Murty has much to ponder.

“It’s a good headache for me to have as Jamie will probably be back fit,” said Murty. “So do I then drop someone who has scored a hat-trick?

“We will have to wait and see.

“I brought him in because he needs minutes and he needs to get some sharpness.

“I thought his finishes were really good and indicative of a player who is hungry to do well.”

Asked what the chances of Murphy being available would be by the weekend, Murty said: “At the moment it’s questionable, but if I know Jamie he will be doing everything in his power to convince me he is all right.

“Jason’s not a winger, he’s more of an inside forward. I thought his second goal illustrated that point.

“He got into that slot between centre-half and full-back and his finish showed the difference between being a centre-forward and being a non-striker.

“A midfield player might have slashed at it, but he passed it into the net calmly.

“He’s someone that offers us a different kind of threat.

The possibility of Cummings, the former Hibernian striker who is on loan at Rangers from Nottingham Forest until the end of the 2017/18 campaign, featuring in what promises to be quite a Glasgow derby is an attractive one for the neutral observer never mind a supporter.

Murty revealed that he had encouraged Cummings, whose trademark Joker tattoo on the back of his right hand was raised to his face during every one of his goal celebrations yesterday, to be his madcap self when he was being left out of the starting line-up.

His advice has clearly had the desired affect.

“Jason just thrives on life full stop,” he said.

“He is a happy guy.

“He is actually a confidence guy in that when he first came in he was this larger than life character.

“But he has calmed down a bit and shrunk somewhat.

“I have challenged him not to do that, to be himself and to be that big gallus guy.

“He said he is frustrated. He said: ‘I want to play’. I said: ‘Well, you need to move forward, put a line in the sand, be you, be strong enough to be you.

“Hopefully those goals today will see a spark thrown into him - although I’m not sure the changing room can handle an even livelier Jason Cummings to be honest.”

When told that Murty had described him as gallus – a Glasgow word meaning self-confident, daring and cheeky – the Edinburgh-born player was baffled. “I don’t know what it means,” he said. “William Gallas?”

The final scoreline was harsh on a Falkirk team who attempted to play football when the game allowed and who drew level in the first half when a Craig Sibbald shot at a free-kick deflected off Aaron Muirhead – who later netted an own goal just before half-time – and beyond Jak Alnwick.

“We didn’t come here to park the bus,” said Falkirk manager Paul Hartley.

“There were some key moments in the game. We got back into it at 1-1 and they scored two minutes later.

“If we had got in at 2-1 at half-time we would still have had an opportunity. We worked on a few things but it didn’t quite work for us in terms of switching off anad not matching runners,” he added.

“But overall I was pleased with the players. They didn’t just sit off the game and wait for things to happen, they tried to make things happen. It was a free hit for us but at the top level if you switch off you definitely get punished.”