By Nick Butler

Fiona Coghlan's Ireland halt the English charge for the first time ever en route to their first Six Nations victory ©The Rugby Football Union Collection/Getty ImagesDecember 20 - Irish rugby captain Fiona Coghlan has been named Irish Sports Council Sportswoman of the Year at a gala event in Dublin in recognition for an unprecedented 12 month period highlighted by her country's first ever Six Nations triumph.

Before the title, and the Grand Slam for winning all five matches, was clinched with a nailbiting 6-3 win over Italy, Coghlan's team had registered their first ever victory over England after 17 failed attempts with a shock 25-0 triumph.

Her team are set to be further awarded by beginning their Six Nations title defence against Italy by playing, for the first time, at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin immediately after Ireland's men compete against the same opponents. 

The Sportswomen of the Year award, compiled by the Irish Times, was chosen from a shortlist of Athlete of the Month winners over the last year and - with two recipients being awarded on two occasions - there were 14 contenders. 

Among those to miss out was the European laser radial sailing champion Annalise Murphy, World Triathlon Series final runner up Aileen Reid and double European cross country champion Fionnuala Britton, as well as athletes from squash, swimming, basketball, hockey and three day eventing. 

2011 and 2012 European cross country champion Fionnuala Britton was among the contenders to miss out on the top prize ©Getty ImagesThe 2011 and 2012 European cross country champion Fionnuala Britton was among the contenders to miss out on the top prize ©Getty Images

The Ceremony was held at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin and attended by the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring.

Coghlin followed last year's winner, London 2012 boxing champion Katie Taylor, in being awarded the main prize.

The reasoning behind her victory was explained by Kevin O'Sullivan, editor of The Irish Times, and one of those responsible for choosing the winner.

"Fiona's win is a great boost for women's rugby and participation in a game that up to a few years ago had to fight for any profile," he said.

"I cast my mind back to a freezing and wet afternoon in Milan last March when the Irish team sealed the Grand Slam with as much bravery and resilience as you are likely to witness on a football pitch.

"Some of the players were close to hypothermia after the game, which just underlines the huge desire shown by Fiona and her team mates.

"These awards continue to thrive because our leading sportswomen continue to raise the bar and nobody raised it higher in 2013 than Fiona Coghlan."  

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