Darren Murray has confirmed his commitment to Portadown by signing a two-year extension on top of the striker’s current contract.
It is understood that Cliftonville highlighted Murray as a summer target but the defending champions’ interest has been blocked by Portadown’s long-term offer.
Murray finished the latest Danske Bank Premiership campaign with 23 goals - and 29 overall - during a breakthrough season for the young striker.
Ronnie McFall, the Ports boss, considers the agreement another sign of the club’s ambition for the future.
“Darren is only 22 years old and finished with 29 goals last season,” said McFall. “The signings of Robert Garrett, Michael Gault and Mark McAllister have made it clear we want to build a squad.
“We are still in the market for additional players so we will see what happens.
“Darren’s commitment is another example of our plans.
“Cliftonville were showing interest but there was never any doubt that we wanted him to stay at the club.”
Murray and Gary Twigg combined to produce 43 goals in last season’s 38-game league programme - with the addition of McAllister adding to the team’s firepower alongside two midfield signings in Gault and Garrett designed to strengthen a key area.
“He is a good lad and someone who gets on with everyone,” said McFall. “Darren has made excellent progress and can only continue to get better due to his age.
“His partnership with Gary is a real bonus and they have a great relationship, which can only be good for the club.
“Darren is always working on his game and becoming more mature as a player, with a real desire to improve.
“I first tried to sign Darren from Newington YC as a teenager but had to wait until he was at Donegal Celtic to finally get the player.
“Darren had a great record of scoring against Portadown for his previous clubs in the Irish League and you could tell from an early age he was something special.”
A registration night for the Portadown FC Youth’s Games Development Centre will take place on Monday from 6.30 to 8.30 in Shamrock Park. Anyone interested is asked to bring along two passport-size photographs and bank details.