IT seems like, as every year begins, there are hopeful conversations suggesting that this is the year women’s sport will take real strides forward.

This decade has, unquestionably, seen considerable progress as women’s sport and female athletes strive for greater equality. London 2012 was huge for women’s sport, with Jessica Ennis, Kathryn Grainger and Nicola Adams being some of the most recognisable faces of the Games.

And Glasgow 2014 was similarly positive in terms of female athletes receiving exposure on a par with any of the male competitors.

However, for all the positivity that we saw in the first half of the decade, there a persuasive argument to suggest that, from a Scottish perspective, 2019 has been the best year of all when it comes to female athletes closing the gap on their male counterparts.

Early in the year, Laura Muir cemented her place as one of Scotland’s greatest current athletes.

The 26-year-old stormed to gold in both the 1500m and the 3000m at the European Indoor Athletics Championships, becoming the first athlete to win the double-double at the event. That she did it in Glasgow, in front of packed out crowds, likely made it an even sweeter success.

At the close of those championships, there was no athlete more prominent than Muir and she backed up her impressive showing with her fifth place finish at the World Championships in October.

The summer saw history made with Scotland’s women’s football team playing in a World Cup for the first time ever.

Their qualifying campaign had regularly seen record attendances at home games and while they are, of course, a world away from the tens of thousands that flock to Rangers and Celtic games, the women’s national team were certainly comparable with the crowd figures seen at some of the smaller Premier League teams.

An opening defeat to England was not unexpected, with another defeat to Japan somewhat more disappointing. However, it was their draw with Argentina after blowing a three goal lead in the closing 20 minutes that not only saw them knocked out but also saw them pilloried for their capitulation.

In a funny way though, the criticism was a positive thing. For too long, women’s football has been patronised to such an extent that the result has not really mattered.

The significant change this year was that the media, who covered the women’s team this year better than has ever been seen in the past, really got stuck into the players and manager, Shelley Kerr, for their final-game performance.

This is exactly how it should be. None of this ‘oh well, they tried hard’. If a performance is not good enough, as the women’s against Argentina was not, they should face stern criticism, just as the men’s team would.

Staying on football, a huge result this year was Glasgow City’s progression to the quarter-finals of the women’s Champions League.

To reach the last 16 of the competition is impressive in itself, but their win against Brondby in October – they won on penalties after the two legs finished in a tie - to reach the last eight, was huge.

Glasgow City remain a part-time team, while almost every other team who reach the latter stages of the competition have budgets which dwarf that of the Scots’.

Scott Booth’s side will now face Wolfsburg in the last eight and while they go in as underdogs, their progress has done much to increase the respect for women’s football in this country.

The Solheim Cup was held in Gleneagles in September and the crowds on the first tee were, said captain Catriona Matthew, unlike anything she had ever seen at the event before.

With such a number of world-class men’s tournaments gracing these shores, it is often tricky for women’s golf to get a look-in but what the Solheim Cup proved, if it needed to be proven, was that women’s golf can be every bit as enthralling as the men’s game.

However, my personal highlight was Hannah Rankin becoming Scotland’s first-ever female boxing champion.

The 29-year-old defeated American fighter Sarah Curran in June for the vacant IBO super-welterweight title and in doing so, she has written herself into the history books.

Josh Taylor’s world title win was huge for Scotland but arguably, Rankin’s was even more significant as now, young girls can look at Rankin and dream that could be them one day. Not long ago, becoming a female boxer in Scotland seemed an impossibility.

There are almost too many other impressive female performances to mention; Katie Archibald who won world silver and European gold this year, Eve Muirhead and her rink who won European silver, maria Lyle who won double gold at the World Para-Athletics Championships, Elise Christie who won European silver, Sally Conway who won world bronze.

As is said at the close of every year, there remains considerable work to do to ensure equality continues to get closer. but it is impossible to say progress is not being made.

The Tokyo Olympics next year will once again provide a platform for female athletes to grab the limelight.

Men’s football continues to be dominant, but things are changing. If 2020 can see as much progress for equality as the last 12 months has, we’ll be sitting in a pretty good place next December.