Billy Weir: Why Linfield's new man Daniel Kearns has given every football fan something to cheers
There was a beautiful and awfully rare sight around 3.30pm on Saturday afternoon in Lurgan.
No, not an unmolested bottle of Buckfast, this was something that should be toasted by everyone - a player celebrating with gusto a goal against his former employers.
The ray of sunshine on the opening day of the season was brought to us by Daniel Kearns, a man who has travelled widely in his varied career, with spells at West Ham, Dundalk, Peterborough, York City, Rotherham, Chesterfield, Carlisle United, Sligo Rovers and Limerick, as well as that season spent at Mourneview Park in the 2015-16 season.
After all that, he's now earning a crust with Linfield, a mere stone's throw away from his west Belfast home, and with his nomadic instincts it was no surprise then that he popped up in just the right place on Saturday to give David Healy's men a crucial win.
- Read more: Why I was always going to celebrate against my old club Glenavon, explains Linfield hero Kearns
There's more to come from Kearns and Linfield, they stuttered and spluttered at times, but with Roy Carroll having one of those days at the back and Glenavon drawing more blanks than a dominoes convention, they did just enough.
"It was nice to be back because I haven't been up in a while with having played down south, but I was delighted to get a goal and I was always going to celebrate regardless," said new-boy Kearns afterwards.
"It's nothing against the boys here, you celebrate when you score. I think it's madness (if you don't celebrate). You're on the pitch here to do a job, to score goals and help create chances, and that's why the manager brought me here."
Hallelujah! Is there nothing more annoying than seeing someone who has just scored trudging away like someone has trodden on his pet tortoise, or tentatively poking a finger in the air or apologetically applauding the opposition fans?
No, he dived in where it hurts and got his just rewards with the winning goal and, after being mobbed by his new team-mates, he lapped up the adulation of the Blues fans.
Glenavon fans weren't ripping up seats in fury at such a heinous action being committed by one of their own, they were too busy booing Joel Cooper who switched between the two clubs in the summer, but that was nothing to their thoughts on referee Ian McNabb - more of that elsewhere.
Compare Kearns' actions to that of Aston Villa's Ahmed Elmohamady, who may dribble like an Egyptian but his non-celebration against former side Hull was drier than a plain cream cracker in the Sahara.
We've had a few non-celebrants in these parts over the years, but thankfully the joy of scoring a goal still seems to outweigh the shame of scoring against your old mates.
Can you imagine how exciting the pictures of Chris Morgan on Morgan Day would have been had he just stuck up a sorry paw while walking back to the centre circle?
David Cushley won the title for Crusaders back in April at the Showgrounds where he was once the darling of the Ballymena United fans and went free-wheeling across the ground quicker than an errant Vauxhall Nova, winning the Gibson Cup and the Stock Rod title on the same day.
There's nothing Andrew Waterworth loves more than scoring against the Glens, James Knowles memorably celebrated a Linfield goal against Cliftonville by giving loads back to the fans who had booed his every touch, and then we have Josh Robinson.
Now, I admit that sometimes players do maybe go too far the other way. His goal at Windsor Park against former side Crusaders saw him take off like a scalded cat and he almost took Stephen Baxter and his cup of tea with him.
The cynical amongst would argue that was as close as he got to getting a cup with the Blues last season, but that would be a cheap shot for the opening day of the new column season!
There have been some great player celebrations down the years, Francis Lee's goal for Derby County against his beloved Man City back in the Seventies gave us one of the great lines of commentary from Barry Davies - his 'look at his face, look at his face' will go down in history.
Current Derby boss Frank Lampard was in the other camp when he scored for City against Chelsea and looked about as happy as his missus sticking on her Best of the One Show DVD.
And then of course there was Emmanuel Adebayor, who ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans when he scored for City and some of them were that annoyed that they forgot to shout at Arsene Wenger for a wee while.
So, Daniel and all other goalscorers who commit the cardinal sin of scoring against your old side - keep up the bad work!
Gary sees red but VAR here is still very far away
A new season and we all hoped that Gary Hamilton would have become a more relaxed, less hairy character, who had nothing but good things to say about referees.
Well, he is a little less hairy, but any love for the men in black lasted all of 13 minutes on Saturday when referee Ian McNabb, who had earlier booked Linfield’s Chris Casement for handling the ball in the area, brought down Josh Daniels.
He held his breath, Glenavon players cried out in anger, and on the touchline Gary was bouncing up and down like Zebedee on a trampoline, and was hopping mad when the ref just had that thing that irritates everyone — the ‘quiet word’.
Gary was far from quiet afterwards, he slammed the official for that decision and for awarding the free-kick from which Linfield scored the only goal of the game, and he looked to have a fair point on both calls.
I didn’t agree that they should have had a penalty when Daniels fell over too easily in the box later on but, after a summer in which every decision at the World Cup seemed to be only taken after someone mimed out a wee square like Lionel Blair on Give Us A Clue, maybe it’s just as well we don’t have VAR here. It is a debate that is an awful long way away from gathering speed here I would imagine — NIFL is unlikely to have the dosh to facilitate video refs at six Premiership games, as much as we would all like to see it.
On the other hand, it would be nice to see refs who have had to call it a day still being involved and, if we’re serious about making the product as good as it can be, is it something we can’t afford to talk about?
Let the injury strife of Ryan be at an end
Only those with the hardest of hearts (or Crusaders fans) would not have a gooey feeling with the return of Ryan Catney for his first league game for Cliftonville in 560 days.
The Cliftonville skipper has endured 18 months of hell following breaking his leg in January 2017 and came back during the Reds’ Europa League campaign.
If he had been around last season, I have no doubt Cliftonville would have gone a lot closer in the race for the title with his no-holds-barred, never-say-die attitude, making him one of the most Marmite-like players in the country.
Like Barry Gray, I would be in the ‘can’t get enough of him’ camp.
“A lot of our fans will tell you that’s what we were missing last season, and perhaps it was,” said the Cliftonville boss after their 2-1 win at Glentoran on Saturday.
“Ryan is a leader. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and I’m thrilled to have him back again.”
And so say all of us who love the game here.
Fans blow in for some bumper opening gates
It was great to see such record-breaking crowds for the first day of the new campaign, with NIFL revealing that almost 9,000 brave souls had climbed aboard the rollercoaster on day one.
And nice to see that 450 of that number was at the Brandywell as Institute took on Newry City at their new ‘home’ as Paddy McLaughlin’s men kicked off their life across the city with a win.
It was great to hear him pay tribute to Derry City, both the club and fans, who have made them feel welcome when the summer has been dominated by bad news in the Maiden City.
I’d love to see Derry City back in the Irish League, if only to get to deal with King Kenny Shiels again, but that ship may have sailed now.
Interestingly, the biggest attendance of the day was at The Oval for the visit of Cliftonville, and that just shows the Glens fans are desperate for the good times to return.
And apparently, despite the stands looking jolly busy, there were only 912 at Coleraine vs Warrenpoint Town.
There looked to be more, but it turns out that was just all the suspended and injured players from the Bannsiders’ squad...