Colm Whelan's 34th-minute goal at Richmond Park eventually proved to be the winner for UCD as they saw off Waterford in the promotion-relegation play-off last month.

The result means the Students will be spending their second season of four in the Premier Division of the SSE Airtricity League.

But it also means a fifth club from the capital, at the expense of a side from one of the other cities, in a top flight league of 10 sides. For Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians, St Patrick's Athletic, Shelbourne and College, 16 of their league fixtures in 2022 will be Dublin derbies.

The island is roughly 84,000km², and yet half the teams competing are from an area barely 40km². Add to that two clubs from Louth, and the supposedly 'national' league is very lopsided.

It was a point acknowledged recently by Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, a Dubliner who managed three clubs from outside the capital in the League of Ireland, as well as Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.

"It was a great year for clubs from Dublin, but, as Dubs, we can't be insular," he told the Irish Examiner.

"It's an issue and a problem for the league. You have five Premier clubs in Dublin, two in Louth, making it seven in Leinster, and the other three based in the north-west.

"There are no clubs in the midlands, none on the lower west coast, and none in Munster. There is a geographical issue.

"Cork City are potentially the biggest club in the country and are not in the division," he added.

"Galway, Limerick and Waterford are major population centres not represented in the Premier Division."

Kenny is correct, of course. It's such a vast swathe of the country that isn't anywhere near a top flight club and that will undoubtedly make the competition a more difficult sell in those areas.

There is no intended criticism of any of those Dublin clubs, of course, and there will be plenty of interest in what happens with each of them for different reasons.

Shamrock Rovers have been worthy back-to-back champions, and are going for a first three-in-a-row since the 1980s. St Patrick's Athletic will be defending their FAI Cup title while also trying to close the gap to first place in the post Stephen O'Donnell era.

Shelbourne were runaway First Division winners before parting ways with the man who achieved it with them - Ian Morris - and replacing him with one of the true greats of Irish international soccer in Damien Duff. His first venture into management is sure to peak the interest of casual supporters, while the future of Tolka Park, and the support that the campaign to save it has gathered, is an interesting subplot for Shels in 2022.

Bohs against Rovers has been an in demand ticket in the last few seasons

Bohemians, under Keith Long, have been battling hard to compete with clubs who have bigger budgets than them and the FAI Cup final defeat, and the loss of European qualification that went with it, will be a blow without question. But season ticket sales have gone very well at Dalymount Park, once again reflecting the interest that's there.

While UCD return to the top flight having scored more goals than any club in the second tier this season, and they were full value for their promotion. Andy Myler will be hoping to avoid the fate of the likes of Athlone, Wexford, Longford, Shelbourne, and the Students themselves, who were relegated after just one season in the Premier Division in the last decade.

The appetite is clearly there for the League of Ireland in the other cities, with nearly 4,000 at Eamonn Deacy Park for the play-off semi-final between Galway and Bray Wanderers in November. Earlier the same week, around 3,000 attended the Treaty United against UCD play-off clash at Markets Field.

On the other hand, the one obvious positive for the clubs involved in the top flight in 2022 is their proximity to one another.

This should boost attendances at the games, with the recent FAI Cup final - which was a modern record for the showpiece game - as well as meetings of Rovers and Bohs over the last few seasons, good examples of the appetite for the domestic game in the capital.

If a couple of those sides really give Rovers a rattle this year in pursuit of the title, then clashes between them could help to stave off Dublin derby fatigue.

Is there a solution? Could a 12 team top flight be the answer, with fewer meetings between the clubs and a better chance of a more 'national' feel to the teams competing?

Realistically no - the current make up of the two divisions had been to give both 10 teams. That has changed for next season, with the Bray/Cabinteely merger, to leave just nine teams in the First Division

But the second tier has undoubtedly been entertaining over the last few seasons, with clubs battling for the plentiful amount of play-off places up until late in the campaign.

Tinkering with the First Division would do little for the likes of Athlone and Wexford

It also has all the things that Stephen Kenny mentioned at the PFAI Awards; teams from Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, midland representation in the form of Longford and Athlone, while Wexford seem to be on the right trajectory with Ian Ryan at the helm.

Taking two clubs out of there to even up the geographical representation of the Premier Division would leave us with nothing more than a rump second tier, with just seven clubs competing. In the long run you would undoubtedly do even more damage to the clubs outside Dublin who aren't going to be challenging for promotion anytime soon.

Other solutions include rumours of a League of Ireland third tier in 2023, which might allow for untapped areas to have the chance to get into the First Division and eventually the Premier Division. Reports suggest that this will be split along a regional divide to keep costs down, in a similar vein to what exists in the underage national leagues.

In the more medium to long term period, something which has been spoken about for a long time, is an all-island league with clubs from the Belfast area providing more competition to their southern neighbours. It might be more likely than it has been in some time, but it won't be happening today or tomorrow.

So, while some in Abbotstown might quietly fear Bray/Cabinteely winning the First Division, and a club from Louth or the north-west dropping from the top flight in 2022, there's not much that can be done about it for now.

For the league to become a truly national one, it does arguably need more teams from outside the 80km stretch between Oriel Park and Tallaght Stadium. Ultimately though, it's up to the Corks, Galways, Waterford, Longfords and Treaty Uniteds of this world to step up the mark and earn their place in the Premier Division - and then to stay there.

For now, the Dublin, Louth and north-west Premier Division still promises much intrigue for 2022.