Kearney just can't wait to make return
With the pantomime season in full swing the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd is getting to more than just dames and ugly sisters.
Linfield midfielder Oran Kearney is as excited as a child on Christmas Eve as he prepares to get his first sniff of match day action with the first-team since April when the Blues face Newry City this afternoon.
A cruciate ligament injury has sidelined him since then, with last season's appearances just reaching double figures after eight months out with a hip injury.
The January transfer window doesn't open for another few weeks yet, but it is unlikely that any manager in the Irish League will add a player anywhere near as good as Kearney when the New Year comes around and his return is like signing a new player for manager David Jeffrey, who has done without the 29-year-old for most of the last 18 months.
" It's great to be involved again and just the buzz of being in the dressing room before the match and playing in front of a crowd and the intensity that brings will be great to experience after so long," said Kearney.
"That's what you miss most when you are injured and I am looking forward to being part of that.
"I might not play any part in the game, but this is a big step on may way back from injury and to have made the breakthrough back into the first-team squad is a milestone."
There are many of those to pass on the way back from what, not so long ago, was a career ending, let alone threatening, injury.
Nowadays, while not quite being a run of the mill football injury, players can be back in action relatively quickly and Kearney is back in the first-team frame just shy of eight months after his surgery.
And all that time he has had a constant companion. Kearney has spent almost as much time with Linfield physio Terry Hayes as he has with wife Lauren who he married during the summer and that partnership has been just as important, if only for different reasons.
"Fortunately or unfortunately I have spent quite a bit of time with Terry Hayes over the last 18 months with the hip injury and then the cruciate," said Kearney.
"He has been fantastic and I have almost run out of things to say about him.
" Terry really is a Blueman through and through and he has the experience of playing for the club and across the water so he knows what players are going through.
"A lot of credit has to go to Terry and everything I have done, I owe it him.
"There can't be a better man to have working with you when you are coming back from injury than him."