The one thing that we know for certain with sport is that nothing lasts forever – like the four words to make a sad person happy and a happy person sad: this too shall pass.

From 2006 until early September 2010, it felt like there was no stopping Kilkenny and then Lar Corbett scored a hat-trick of goals in the All-Ireland hurling final and the drive for five did some left-footed braking, juddering to a halt.

Given that Tipperary had also won that year’s All-Ireland U21 title, the future was felt to be blue and gold. Of course, Kilkenny came back to win the Liam MacCarthy for the next two years, doing likewise in 2014 and 2015 after Clare had achieved a senior/U21 double similar to that of Tipp in 2013.

That 2015 title remains the Cats’ last, though – they might have done three in a row but Tipp beat them in the final again in 2016 – and we had a period of 1990s-style egalitarianism as Galway and Limerick ascended the rostrum before Tipp came again in 2019.

With Waterford and Kilkenny reaching finals in that period, it felt like a real democracy.

Of course, that Limerick side that came through in 2018 to end a 45-year wait has become a behemoth and the last two titles have gone to Shannonside in a devastatingly clinical and ruthless fashion.

While the mid-2010s had a predictable look in football combined with an open hurling championship, we now have what appears to be the opposite as we face into 2022.

Waterford are in a good spot to challenge but have struggled to sufficiently frustrate Limerick in three meetings over the past two seasons

That’s not to say it’ll be a stroll for John Kiely’s men – they were after all beaten by Kilkenny in the 2019 semis – but they were so dominant last year that there is quite a gap to be bridged. Cork will hope to use their final appearance as a platform, but it’s worth noting that they almost lost to Clare in their first qualifier match while Tipp, Galway and Wexford all have new managers.

Waterford are in a good spot to challenge but have struggled to sufficiently frustrate Limerick in three meetings over the past two seasons and while Kilkenny and Brian Cody are still there, eternal and evergreen, they do need to improve.

Similar patterns emerging in football

So, that’s the whole hurling championship boxed off and the three-in-a-row sent to the Treaty City; what of the football, which was shaken up by Tyrone’s re-emergence last year?

It says a lot about humans’ tendency to revert to familiar patterns that the bookmakers have Kerry as favourites for the 2022 All-Ireland, followed by Dublin and Mayo, with Tyrone fourth.

Obviously, the difficulty in champions repeating their feat is a factor – between 1990 and 2015, only Kerry in 2006-07 managed it while it wasn’t until the third attempt that Dublin managed to go back-to-back before repeating the trick four more times.

Right now, it would appear that the winner will come from that quartet but then a year ago we’d probably have limited the picks to the trio who had made up the previous two final entrants.

A spanner in the works for ladies’ sport

Ladies’ football in 2021 gave a prime example of how a team can upset the expectations as Meath, only just up from intermediate, beat Cork and then Dublin to claim the Brendan Martin Cup. They will probably find just how uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, but having won one, they will have a taste for more and the desire of the previous ‘old firm’ to dethrone them should make for an interesting campaign.

Similarly, Galway have ended Cork and Kilkenny’s camogie duopoly for now but the county have never gone back-to-back at senior level – they’ve only ever won four titles – and so the challenge is to build on the two wins of the last three years.

Empty trophy cabinet

While the Ireland rugby team didn’t win any silverware in 2021, a passable Six Nations Championship campaign was used as a platform for three superb performances against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina in the autumn, giving signs that the Andy Farrell era has moved on to a new level.

At the same time, those victories don’t carry a huge material benefit and so the team must start from zero again when the Six Nations commences with a home clash against Wales in just over a month.

As we can now say that the World Cup takes place “next year” rather than “in 2023” the plan for the out-half position and Jonathan Sexton’s longevity becomes a bit more urgent. It’s a conundrum with a new variable thrown into it given Joey Carbery’s most recent injury travails, but at least there is no shortage of options.

Improvement for soccer

While the Republic of Ireland football team don’t have anything like that embarrassment of riches, they do go in 2022 in better shape than they started 2021, with Stephen Kenny having come through early struggles. The only “problem” is that, right now, we don’t know who Ireland’s next game will be against. The draw for the Euro 2024 qualifiers will at least provide some focus and allow some hopefully realistic ambitions to be laid down.

Similarly, both the women’s soccer and rugby teams ended difficult years on positive notes, hopefully providing signposts for better fortunes in 2022. If we were to have one wish for the year ahead, it’s that coverage of those two teams would be focused on how their games go, rather than the on-field action being overshadowed by administrative foul-ups or poor player welfare.