Liam Boyce believes Cliftonville proved their title mettle this season

Liam Boyce holds off Keith O'Hara at Shamrock Park
Liam Boyce holds off Keith O'Hara at Shamrock Park

Liam Boyce believes Cliftonville showcased a different side to their game as they clinched back-to-back titles.

Tuesday’s spirited 2-0 win over Portadown saw the Reds make it two-in-a-row.

It saw the defending champions retain the Gibson Cup with just one game to spare.

Last season the Reds cruised to their first title in 15 years.

This term they were forced to do it the hard way, having to come from off the pace before overtaking Linfield and holding their nerve in the final stretch.

And striking talisman Boyce believes Cliftonville proved their title mettle.

“It is great to defend the title. The fans were singing ‘two in a row’ all day, so we knew it would be special,” Boyce said of Tuesday’s win.

“Last season was so special, but this is also fantastic. We won it by nine points last season, but we knew it was in the bag with about 10 games left.

“This season it has gone to the penultimate game, and we have shown our character and mettle. We were courageous to do it at the business end of the season.

“Linfield have been doing it for years, so it is good for us to show that side of our game.”

Boyce – who comes out of contract in the summer – admits Tuesday’s victory over Portadown was a special moment for the players.

Second half goals from Chris Curran and Stephen Garrett – coupled with Linfield’s defeat to Glentoran – saw Cliftonville crowned champions once again.

It is the first time in the club’s history that they have defended the title.

“We knew it would be tough coming down here, but we knew if we could get that first goal then the nerves would settle,” Boyce added.

“Hearing the fans cheering when Glentoran scored at Windsor was surreal too. It gave everyone a lift.

“It was ironic that all the pressure Linfield tried to put on us, and then they drop points at home. So it was a good day all round.”

Despite winning another title, Boyce admits there will be no repeat of last season’s extended celebrations.

“I think the celebrations will be a bit quieter this time,” the 23-year-old striker joked.

“ Last year we went mad for about four days, but I am on a tighter leash this time.

“We will enjoy one night, and maybe the next day, but that will be about it.”