Liam Boyce soaks up the Solitude party as he ponders his future

Cliftonville striker Liam Boyce
Cliftonville striker Liam Boyce

Cliftonville striker Liam Boyce was happy to play through the pain barrier on Saturday as speculation continues to mount over his future.

Boyce came on as a 59th-minute substitute as the Reds claimed a 3-2 derby victory over Crusaders before lifting the Gibson Cup.

The 23-year-old striker was desperate to soak up the carnival atmosphere at Solitude.

Boyce – who comes out of contract next month – is on the radar of a number of clubs in England, including Chesterfield who earned promotion to League One on Sunday.

And with a potential summer exit from Cliftonville on the cards, Boyce was keen to play an active part in the Reds’ title swansong on Saturday.

“I really wanted to play today, because I don’t know what the future holds,” Boyce admitted.

“I injured my ankle on Tuesday against Portadown, and it was up like a bap during the week.

“I said to Bresy that I didn’t know if this would be my last match or not, and I asked him if I could just go on. Thankfully he gave me 20 minutes so I could enjoy the moment and feel the atmosphere, even though the ankle was sore.

“There is nothing set in stone. I could be back here next season, but nobody knows.

“I will take it as it comes.

“It would be very difficult to play for another Irish League club. Being here today, hearing the fans sing ‘two-in-a-row’ and singing your name is special. It is like a home away from home.

“Not only are we making the management staff happy, we are also making so many fans happy too. And that’s special.

“It is a big extended family. We are all mates outside of football and we go out together. We are very close.”

Joe Gormley – whose 37 goals saw him break Boyce’s club record of most goals in a season – hopes his strike partner remains at Solitude next season.

“I would love to see Liam stay. Out of my 37 goals, he has probably set up 30 of them,” Gormley said.

“If he gets a chance across the water, hopefully he can take it. He is the best player in the Irish League by a country mile and he deserves his chance.

“We have scored plenty of goals over the past two seasons and we have formed a good partnership. Liam Beckett described us as fish and chips, and bread and butter. We just know how each other plays.

“Liam could play with anyone, he is that good.”

Gormley believes Cliftonville can continue to dominate the Irish League landscape next season and beyond.

“I don’t see why we can’t retain the title next season. The players we have in the squad are incredible, and there should be a few new faces too,” he added.

“The quality is superb. The whole team is like a family as well, we are very close together.

“We have already signed Johnny Flynn for next season. “I played with Johnny at Celtic Boys, and he is a superb player. I am looking forward to him coming to the club.

“It is that kind of quality we need. We want to build and continue improving.

“We have got the players here already. I don’t think we will need much more.”