For a man who didn’t score an Irish Cup goal for a decade, Darren Boyce has certainly made up for lost time at Ballymena United.
The Sky Blues striker scored arguably the most important goal in United’s run to the final of last season’s competition to save Ballymena from an opening round exit at Harland & Wolff Welders and followed it up with a brace in the quarter-final win over Dungannon.
And Boyce was on the Irish Cup goal trail again with a double strike to take United past the hurdle of Crumlin Star in Saturday’s fifth round tie.
“The same weekend last year was my first ever goal in the Irish Cup but I ended up scoring a few more in the competition last year and I’ve started with two this year,” Boyce told Times Sport.
“I had been playing in the Irish League for 10 years and never played in an Irish Cup final - then I came to Ballymena and was in the Irish Cup final within three months so it would be nice to go on another run like that again.”
A purple patch of four goals in United’s last four games over the turn of the year - including one in the Boxing Day win over his former club Coleraine - has taken Boyce’s tally for the season to nine and he admits: “I’ve scored 16 goals in the calendar year I’ve been at Ballymena so I can’t be unhappy with that.
“I’m ticking along not too badly - that’s four goals in the last three weeks.
“I have nine goals and Matthew Tipton has 14 - I always keep an eye on the strikers’ goal tallies!
“But it’s not about me scoring, it’s performances and results for the team that matter.
“We know we can score goals but sometimes we don’t seem to play the right balls or we’re having an off-day but hopefully this result will help our confidence.
“We kept the ball really well at times and it was a good performance from us.”
Boyce admits that the players were anxious to avoid the sort of scare they received at the Welders at the same stage of the competition last year against Crumlin Star.
“It showed in the manager’s team selection - it was exactly the same starting line-up as he put out against Glenavon the following week so he wasn’t taking Crumlin Star lightly and neither were we.
“We knew our jobs all week and we knew that if we played to our potential, we could win comfortably.
“They put up a good fight but it was good for us to get a few goals and, possibly more importantly, keep a clean sheet because we haven’t had too many of those so far this season.
They got men behind the ball, which you have to expect but luckily enough we got a penalty early on and scoring that opened things up a wee bit but overall our performance was good.
It’s always nice to see the three strikers get on the scoresheet as well and hopefully that can give us all a bit of confidence for the coming weeks,” added Boyce.