Barrett, Joseph (1902–52), GAA footballer, was born 17 July 1902 at 67 Rock St., Tralee, Co. Kerry, seventh of ten children of John Barrett, Tralee livestock dealer, and Nora Barrett (née O'Mahony) of Ballyduff, Co. Kerry. Educated locally, at the age of 14 he took up the family livestock trade and held it together after the deaths of his father (1915) and his elder brother Christy (1918). His family was strongly nationalist and he joined the Irish Volunteers before his fifteenth birthday, fighting in the Anglo–Irish war and on the republican side in the civil war. He was arrested by the Free State army (September 1922) and interned in the Curragh until December 1923.
Among his fellow internees were several young Kerrymen who formed the nucleus of the great Kerry teams of the 1920s and early 1930s. Barrett played on the ex-internees team in the famous challenge matches against the Kerry county team in spring 1924. The Kerry team for the forthcoming all-Ireland championship was then chosen from these two sides, with Barrett selected as full-back. He went on to win six All-Ireland SFC medals (1924, 1926, 1929–32), captaining the Kerry side to victory on two occasions (1929, 1932). Altogether he appeared in eight All-Ireland finals between 1923 and 1932, including the four epic clashes between Kerry and Kildare (1926, 1927, 1929, 1931). In 1931 he made the generous gesture of handing over the captaincy to Con Brosnan (qv), an opponent in the civil war and a close friend in later life. Barrett won ten Munster championships, several National League titles, and two Railway Cup medals with Munster, in the competition's inaugural year in 1927 and as captain of his province in 1931. He helped his club Rock Street (now Austin Stack's) to seven county football championships and a number of county hurling championships as well, and won two Tailteann Games medals, captaining Ireland to beat America in one of these victories. He retired from the game in 1934. Solidly built, he was renowned for his strength and bravery and was a superb fielder of the high ball. He was regarded as the best full-back of his day, and is acknowledged as one of the greatest players ever to play for Kerry.
After his retirement from playing he acted as a selector for the Kerry county team. He was a fine snooker and billiards player, and was also keenly interested in greyhounds. From his mid forties he was troubled by severe high blood pressure, and after suffering a number of strokes and several years of disability he died 2 June 1952 in Tralee. He left a widow, Kitty, and four children. His sons John (d. 1995), Tim (d. 1973), and J. J., a journalist and author, all played football for Kerry county teams.