| 5.7°C Dublin

...but there's still an empty feeling to end the year

I guess, in a sense, we are becoming a little spoilt by our rugby success. But in assessing 2011, there's that horrible empty feeling that we left something behind. World Cup 2011 offered an opportunity to achieve something really special and, of course, that victory over Tri Nations champions Australia in Auckland opened up all sorts of possibilities.

But when the tournament was finally over, captain Brian O'Driscoll could only reflect on what might have been after Ireland were beaten by Wales in the quarter-finals. "I don't know when again an Irish team could have the same route into a World Cup final. I look back at a massive missed opportunity," he said.

To lose hurts, but to lose when you underperform hurts so much more, and a golden chance was blown. But the gloom soon lifted as the Irish sides took up where they left off at the end of 2010/11. And here, it is imperative we don't lose the run of ourselves in taking too much for granted. Lest we forget, the Celtic League title returned here after a Munster/Leinster all-Ireland final.

So, too, the Heineken Cup as Leinster made it two titles in three years by way of the most exciting final. And as the calendar year ends, Leinster and Munster sit first and third in the Pro12 table respectively, and these two -- plus Ulster -- leading their respective pools with just two series of games to go in the race for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

The glass continues half-full, but if we have one wish for 2012 it's that despite the odd hiccup, we try and maintain a sense of perspective. For better or worse, here are a selection of the highs and lows from 2011.

Irish Independent