Liam Boyce believes he will be fine to start for Hearts in the Scottish Cup final after suffering a scare when he had to go off injured in last weekend’s cinch Premiership defeat by Rangers.
The Jambos top scorer looked dejected when he limped off with a groin problem after just 12 minutes of the final league game of the campaign and appeared to have become a doubt for the Hampden showdown with the Ibrox side this weekend.
However, speaking on Monday at the club’s pre-cup final media day, Boyce soothed any fears that he may miss out.
“It’s feeling a lot better than I thought it would when it happened,” he said. “I tried to sprint and just felt the leg tighten up and then a wee sharp pain.
“You automatically think the worst. I tried to run it off but the longer it went on I was thinking there’s no point risking it with such a big game next week. The possibility of missing the final comes into your head because it’s such a big game but shortly after I came off it eased off.
“It was a bit sore on Saturday night but since then it’s been getting better. I’m confident I can play on Saturday.”
Boyce, who joined Hearts two-and-a-half years ago, is well aware of the opportunity as the Edinburgh side bid to land silverware for the first time since their last Scottish Cup triumph a decade ago, when they defeated city rivals Hibernian 5-1 in the final. That was their third victory in the tournament in the space of 14 years.
“It’s hard not to see what it means when you play at Hearts because the fans love it so much and they’re always bringing it up that they beat Hibs 5-1 in the final and stuff,” said Boyce. “Even when I was at Ross County, I played with Darren Barr and he talked to me about scoring in that final and how big a day it was.
“If you ever speak to (Hearts ambassador) Gary Locke he buzzes about that day so the history of the club comes to you the longer you’re here when you meet people at training or at events and you see how much people adore them. It’s something you want to be a part of. You want to experience what they have experienced.”
This will be Boyce’s second Scottish Cup final for Hearts after he played in the Covid-delayed 2020 showdown with Celtic, which the Hoops won on penalties following a 3-3 draw. He is looking forward to playing the showpiece match in front of a full house after a “weird” experience behind closed doors in the previous one 18 months ago.
“Because it was an empty stadium, it didn’t really feel like a Scottish Cup final,” he said. “This year you realise how big it actually is because the fans are all buzzing whereas last year it was the same build-up but when you got to the ground it was weird because there was no one in the crowd.
“That’s why we’re looking forward to this one so much because when we won the semi-final against Hibs, the atmosphere was unreal. That felt like more of a final than the final last year with no fans.”