With our soccer and rugby national teams in Ireland, it is often the case that while one is struggling the other is lifting the spirits of the nation. Unfortunately this has not been the case in 2012.

Ireland's overwhelming victory over Argentina last weekend signalled a positive end to a lacklustre season. During this period they won only 4 of the 11 games they played. Aside from last Saturday the other wins were against weaker nations Scotland, Italy and Fiji.

A year that promised so much for our soccer side ended in disappointment with many fans disillusioned about the direction of the current set up. Similar to their rugby counterparts the soccer side won only four of their twelve games in 2012. These victories came against Bosnia, Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands and Oman - none of whom can claim to be among the elite sides.

The summer months brought little joy for either codes, with both sides being whitewashed on foreign soil. The soccer team were humiliated in Poland, while the rugby team were overpowered by the All Blacks. The game against Spain and the final test against New Zealand were the two occasions where Ireland came up against the best in the world and were simply outclassed. It was a summer of realism - acknowledgement that we were still some way away from being able to compete at the highest level.

Both sides have been managed by notoriously conservative coaches who have a vast history of success in their respective sports. Both prefer to stick with their tried and trusted. However come the Autumn months neither Declan Kidney nor Giovanni Trapattoni had much choice.

Injuries forced Kidneys hand somewhat. The November Series saw a fresh new Ireland line up. Young players Simon Zebo, Craig Gilroy and Paddy Jackson made their mark on the international set up. Elder statesmen who had not had much of a chance at international level to date also used this time to impress the coach - Mike McCarthy, Donnacha Ryan and Chris Henry in particular.

Trapattoni's defied himself by reverting from his much maligned selection policy to give some younger faces a chance. Robbie Brady, James McCarthy and Ciaran Clark were among the youngsters to impress the Italian. Wes Hoolahan, who like Mike McCarthy is in his 30's was also finally given an opportunity to add to his one cap.

Both teams have been lucky to be backboned by a golden generation for the past ten years. Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Richard Dunne and Shay Given have all contributed so much to the development of Irish football. Not everything can last forever though - and with Given and Duff stepping aside and Keane and Dunne injured we began to see what the next generation may look like.

The rugby team of the past ten years has given us successes that we could have only dreamed off pre Millennium, Grand Slams, Triple Crowns, European Cups, big world cup victories. But the curtain is coming down on this particular group. Injuries to Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell - coupled with Ronan O'Gara being out of favour - has allowed for new faces to take part in their audition for a place in the team as they prepare for life after the golden generation.

The final whistle in the Aviva last Saturday signalled the end to a year best forgotten by Irish supporters. As a full post-mortem takes place over the winter months there is cause for optimism. The two coaches have used the Autumn months to lay a new template for long term success. The first tests for the new generation begin in Cardiff and Stockholm early next year - if things go well it won't be long until 2012 is forgotten.