DAMIEN DUFF almost provided the knock-out blow to Jonny Hayes at the same time Odsonne Edouard flattened Hearts at Tynecastle in midweek.
The newly-appointed first-team coach got caught up in the moment when the Frenchman steered in the stoppage-time winner to hand Celtic a 2-1 win and three more points in their bid for an eighth successive title.
Edouard’s last-gasp strike maintained the champions’ eight-point advantage at the top of the Premiership on an evening Neil Lennon returned as interim manager following the shock departure of Brendan Rodgers to Leicester City.
The drama all got a bit too much for former Republic of Ireland star Duff who leapt from the touchline to acclaim the points-clincher – and accidentally caught his fellow-countryman on the face with a flying fist.
Hayes, who was an unused substitute, was almost sent flying amid the euphoric celebrations on the touchline.
Asked if he realised he had struck Hayes, Duff replied: “No, not at all. The lads gave me a bit of stick afterwards, telling me ‘good hand’.
“It looks like Jonny took a little wobble afterwards, as well.
“Yeah it was over-exuberant maybe. But that’s football.”
DUG-OUT DISCUSSIONS…Neil Lennon chats to Damien Duff with John Kennedy listening in.
Duff, talking to Celtic TV, said: “I think the victory speaks volumes. We made hard work of it when they were down to 10 men.
“But I think the club have responded brilliantly as well. Brendan got his deal done, the club were straight on the phone to Neil and got to announce Neil as the gaffer.
“Yes, Brendan is a big loss. I think he produced the best footballing team the league has ever seen up here.
“But the team is in no better hands than the gaffer to carry things on.”
Duff, who has had rapid promotion from the reserves to Lennon’s backroom staff with John Kennedy as the new assistant manager, will be on the touchline in Edinburgh again tomorrow night when the holders take on Hibs in the Scottish Cup quarter-final.
Hayes is likely to be in the travelling squad and no doubt will be on his guard if – or when – goal celebrations take place.