Jovial judges lay down the law to Limerick’s Strictly Legal Eagles for charity

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

Strictly Legal Eagles winners Ger O’Neill and Elizabeth Walsh danced an Argentine tango Picture: Brian Arthur

Strictly Legal Eagles winners Ger O’Neill and Elizabeth Walsh danced an Argentine tango Picture: Brian Arthur

THE WINNERS of Strictly Legal Eagles had a key exhibit they failed to disclose to other competitors – a Leonard Cohen hat.

Solicitors, Ger O’Neill and Elizabeth Walsh took home the top prize in the charity dancing competition featuring 20 from Limerick Solicitors’ Bar Association, barristers of the South Western Circuit, Courts Service staff and the Law faculty in UL.

The adjudicators were current Limerick judges, Mary Larkin and Marian O’Leary, and former judge, Aeneas McCarthy. The jovial judges were as fair in the South Court as they are in Limerick District Court.  

Judge O’Leary jokingly chided Derek Walsh, who thought up Strictly Legal Eagles, over his red flouncy, ruffled latin shirt. “Don’t wear that in court!” Judge O’Leary told Mr Walsh, who with Ita Barrett worked their hips in a sassy Samba. 

In the OJ Simpson trial, his lawyer Johnnie Cochran famously said, “If the glove don’t fit you must acquit”. Mr O’Neill’s secret weapon was the hat.

Ms Walsh said they borrowed the Leonard Cohen hat from a college friend, Colman Bermingham.

“I told Ger once he put on the Leonard Cohen hat that it unlocked his musicality and he never looked back after that. He channeled his inner Leonard Cohen,” said Ms Walsh. It worked a treat as they were deemed the winners.

“We all unleashed our inner divas so I don’t know how we are going to put them back in the box. I don’t know how we are going to go back to wearing ordinary clothes after all the bling and diamante,” said Ms Walsh, who described it as “fantastic experience”.

“It didn’t matter who won. It was the experience of the journey – it was brilliant. There was tremendous collegiality and tremendous fun and memories for a life time,” said Ms Walsh. As money is still coming in the final amount isn’t set in stone but over €20,000 will be divided between Children’s Grief Centre and Mid-Western Cancer Foundation.

Mr O’Neill said three of the 10 couples had been touched by cancer in their families.

“We were doing it for them as part of the team because you do build a bond. We would have been delighted if any of the three won because it would have been ideal,” said Mr O’Neill, who danced the Argentine tango with Ms Walsh.

“She was absolutely brilliant. I was so lucky to have such a brilliant partner. As far as  I  was  concerned  it was about survival, it wasn’t about trying to win.

“When you volunteer you say it will be a bit of a craic. As you go along it is just fear and then excitement kicks in. You do work hard, you know you are putting on a show for people who are paying a lot of money. You are under a fair bit of pressure but thanks be to God everyone performed,” said Mr O’Neill.

The solicitor said, “It is one of the most rewarding and exciting things you could ever do in your life.

“It is an absolutely fantastic thrill. I can’t dance really at all but I learned to dance and I will never be on stage dancing ever again” laughed Mr O’Neill.

Strictly Legal Eagles was the brainchild of Derek Walsh, Limerick Solicitors Bar Association secretary. He said Mr O’Neill and Ms Walsh were deservedly crowned the winners.

“It was an unprecedented event for the Limerick legal community and became the talk of the town in the weeks coming up to the show. The event garnered great support with 800 tickets sold in all.    

“The ten couples were put through their paces by the supremely talented Bridget Harte, of Shall We Dance, and kept further on their toes by the organising committee of Niamh White, Rachel Meehan, Maria Riordan, who dedicated an incredible amount of work into putting the final touches together for the show,” said Mr Walsh. He said the nervous energy backstage on Thursday night was palpable as the function room quickly began to fill and the atmosphere was electric.

“The dancers impeccably channelled this into putting on a wonderful show for all present, including Aeneas McCarthy, Marian O’Leary and Judge Mary Larkin, who we were delighted to welcome as special guest ‘judges’,” said Mr Walsh.

Conveyancing and litigation must seem very dull this week after the glamour of last week but the money raised will help the two charities for years.