Liam Boyce recalls Hampden final triumph, fears over potential injury and admits Hearts 'drop off'

Liam Boyce knows all about becoming a legendary figure through winning a trophy at Hampden Park.

The Northern Irishman was Ross County’s leading striker when they defeated Hibs 2-1 in the 2016 League Cup final to give Ross County their first ever piece of major silverware.

Now the 31-year-old has the rare opportunity to win both of Scotland’s major cup competitions with separate clubs outwith the Old Firm as Hearts take on Rangers in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park this weekend.

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“That was absolutely massive for Ross County that year,” he said. “We finished in the top six that year and to win a trophy, for one of the smaller clubs, was just massive. Just to be a part of it puts you down in history. You won something.

Liam Boyce, left, celebrates after helping Ross County to win the League Cup in 2016. Picture: SNS

“It was the Hearts player of the year awards last week and the 2012 cup-winning team was inducted into the Hall of Fame. That just goes to show how big this we’ve got chance is and how important it is to the fans and the club to be winning trophies.

“That team are looked at as legends and rightly so. They beat Hibs 5-1 which is obviously a massive result. That’s something you want in your career. You want to be going back once you are retired and be getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. That’s something you want to achieve and be able to tell your kids.”

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Boyce is set to play in Saturday’s final despite being forced off early in the 3-1 defeat to Rangers in the final game of the campaign last weekend with tightness in his groin. While the issue isn’t as bad as first feared, Boyce admits he was terrified at the time that a cruel twist of fate had knocked him out of contention.

“Obviously what happened gave me a bit of a fright. It was sore and I did think ‘oh no’,” he recalled. “When I went into the dressing room I was gutted. I just wanted to give myself a chance.

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Liam Boyce is forced off injured in Hearts' final game of the season against Rangers. Picture: SNS

"By Saturday night I was walking a bit better. I’d a massive strapping on it. I’m just buzzing that it wasn’t as bad as first thought.

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“It’s just a bit of tightness now. You don’t want to go into a game without training all week so it’s more a balancing act in terms of finding out what I can do as soon as possible and build it up so I’m ready to go.”

Hearts don’t exactly go into the match in great form. A ten-game unbeaten streak was halted by a 4-1 loss at Celtic, which was followed by defeats to Motherwell and a Rangers reserve team.

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Although, despite his team-mates preaching the contrary to the media in recent weeks, Boyce admits he and his club-mates always had one eye on Saturday’s showdown.

“Everyone says to the press ‘we want to win every game’ and you do. But it does drop off a bit. Even subconsciously you are thinking about the final as you don’t want to get hurt or risk anything.

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“But now we’re at the crunch end of it. This is what it was all for. We’ve got those five games out of the way now and we just need to be ready to go.”

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