There was the buzz of the Olympics and the promises from the politicians that things were "looking up".
However as the year draws to a close, the RTE presenter admits that many of those who opted to 'talk to Joe' are suffering immensely.
"Some of the stories we've heard on Liveline have been heartbreaking this year, absolutely devastating," he said in an exclusive interview with the Herald.
"People were going to bed at seven o'clock in the evening just to stay warm. Families were moving their things into one room to preserve the heat. I was very struck this year by the number of self-employed people who contacted us. They paid big taxes during the boom but now they're unemployed and they're not entitled to anything, not entitled to a single thing.
"People felt this year that things would be that bit different. They were told by the politicians that things were looking up but for so many, they haven't. And I think that's been the blow to people that it's almost been unrelenting. Then the Budget of course -- it just hammered it home to so many people that we are in serious, serious difficulty."
Liveline itself continued to cement itself as one of the most iconic programmes aired on Irish radio.
The show now attracts 431,000 listeners every day -- just 10,000 short of the most listened to programme, Morning Ireland.
And it managed to make its own headlines at several points during 2012 -- breaking stories from the 'IPI' cancer drug issue to broadcasting an interview with the friend of murdered RIRA boss Alan Ryan.
In September, Ryan's friend Paul Stewart spoke on the progr-amme about being with the criminal just moments before he was killed.
"The amazing thing about that story was, he was the guy who was with Alan Ryan when he was shot. He was walking along the road with him when he actually was shot dead," Joe explained.
"And then for him to describe what happened -- then all these conspiracy theories started concocting -- but actually to be able even to talk four days later about what happened, I thought was interesting."
The success of the radio programme contrasted notably with the tumultuous year experienced from within the gates of Montrose. From the 'tweetgate' scandal to the Fr Kevin Reynolds affair -- Joe admits that there has been some tough moments this year.
"The thing that baffled me about A Mission To Prey -- RTE has paid and paid handsomely. And they have apologised on hundreds of occasions. And in fairness, Fr Kevin Reynolds has accepted the apology. But the thing that baffled me was, it was pre-recorded. While radio is live every single day."
However, the father-of-three does not subscribe to comments made by his colleague, Miriam O'Callaghan, who said in March that "morale was crushed" in RTE.
"In fairness, I don't know if morale was crushed, I don't know about that. But in radio, we were a bit removed from it.
"There are a lot fewer of us now. Some of the buildings are a bit empty, they sound a bit empty. But we're all working away.
"We'll keep going, we live and hope. It's more pressure now, the teams are smaller, the staffing levels are much smaller, the support services have been affected."
Away from work, Joe admits that he is facing a busy 2013 on a personal level -- with his triplet children, Ellen, Sean and Ronan all gearing up for their leaving cert. But one place where he won't be busy is in the kitchen, with the presenter admitting that he never cooks over the festive season.
"Somebody said to me 'you said recently you make cranberry sauce and an Italian dessert zabaglione' -- and he said 'cranberry sauce normally has a drop of port in it and zabaglione normally has a drop of marsala -- so you made two things with alcohol in it'. But apart from that, I'm useless."
While Joe had a week off to enjoy Christmas, he admits that he is already thinking about grabbing the Liveline microphone in 2013.
"Liveline is my life. Morning, noon and night, I eat and breathe it. From six o clock in the morning, and sometimes even before, I'm listening to radio to see what's around and what ideas are working and not working. I mean, that's my job."