Landers, John Joe (‘Purty’) (1907–2001), GAA footballer and IRA activist, was born 23 April 1907 at Dawson's Terrace, Tralee, Co. Kerry, son of Garret Landers, engine fitter and noted footballer, and Katherine Landers (née Roche) of Listowel. He was educated locally at the CBS, Edward St. The Landers family were actively involved in the war of independence, and he joined the republican boy scouts, Fianna Éireann, in 1920. The vast majority of Rock Street IRA activists, including John Joe's older brother Bill, joined the anti-treaty side during the civil war, and as a Fianna boy he was involved in courier work and reconnaissance for the anti-treatyites. After the civil war he became one of the most senior IRA figures in the Tralee area. He played both football and hurling from an early age and was playing football regularly for his local club, Rock Street, before his eighteenth birthday.
He made his senior debut for Kerry in 1927 at right half forward and was right corner forward on the Kerry side that lost the 1927 All Ireland final to Kildare. He went on to become a key player in the dominant Kerry side that won four consecutive All Ireland championships between 1929 and 1932. His versatility as a forward and ability to use both feet effectively meant he played in four different positions in the four finals. He scored the winning point from right corner forward in the 1929 final, and added 1–2 from the left corner in 1930, before switching to full forward and right half forward in 1931 and 1932 respectively. In 1937 he added a fifth All Ireland medal to his tally when Kerry defeated Cavan after a replay, scoring two goals in the first thirteen minutes of the first game and adding 1–1 in the replay. His All-Ireland victories were accompanied by four National League titles and ten Munster championships with Kerry, and a 1931 Railway Cup medal won with a Munster team comprised entirely of Kerry players. He also triumphed in seven Kerry county football championships: three with a Tralee selection and four with Austin Stacks (previously Rock Street) and a single Kerry county hurling championship, also with Austin Stacks. A prolific forward, he was renowned for his ability to run with the ball, often dribbling it soccer-style along the ground. A willowy physique belied his extraordinary strength and determination, and he was regarded as a fierce competitor by his opponents, and a leader on the field by his team mates. He served as secretary for the Kerry county board in the 1930s and later acted as a selector for the county side. In 1985 he and his brother Tim received all-time all-star awards.
Although Landers himself remarked on the positive effect football had on the healing of civil-war divisions in Kerry, he remained an active IRA organiser throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and with J. J. Sheehy (qv) used the Kerry team's visits to New York in the late 1920s and early 1930s to smuggle arms back to Ireland. He was actively involved in the IRA's opposition to the Blueshirts and in October 1933 was arrested for his part in a riot at a Blueshirt meeting in Tralee, during which Eoin O'Duffy (qv) was badly injured. He was interned in the Curragh for four years (1939–44) during the second world war. He returned to Tralee after the war, where he settled at St Brendan's Park, worked at the CWS bacon factory, and died, aged 94, on 27 August 2001. He married Margaret Broome; they had four daughters.
His younger brother, Tim (‘Roundy’) Landers (1910–80), was also a prominent footballer for Kerry. He was born at Dawson's Terrace on 1 November 1910 and educated at CBS, Edward St. A footballing prodigy, he was playing for the Kerry junior team before his sixteenth birthday. He won two junior All Ireland medals with the county in 1928 and 1930 before joining his brother, John Joe, on the Kerry senior team for the 1931 Munster final at right corner forward. He moved to the half back line for the 1931 All Ireland final and won his first All Ireland medal in Kerry's victory over Kildare. He went on to win four more All Ireland titles, in 1932, 1937, and 1939 and as a substitute in 1941. A short and stockily built man, he was renowned for his pace and the quality of his ball control. The famed GAA commentator P. D. Mehigan (qv) captured this in this description of his performance in the 1932 final; ‘Elusive as an eel, hopping like a rubber ball, quick to strike as a serpent in attack, he made boreens through the Mayo defence’ (Vintage Carbery, 68). He was also an expert free-taker. He won one Railway Cup medal for Munster in 1931. An accomplished all-round athlete, he won three Kerry county hurling championships with Austin Stacks and allegedly turned down a professional soccer contract. He was made an all-time all-star in 1985. He lived at Kilflynn, Co. Kerry, with his wife Noreen (née O'Brien) and they had two sons and two daughters. He worked in a number of different jobs, including clerk for Kerry county council and insurance agent. He died 29 May 1980 at Kilflynn.
A third brother, William (‘Lang’) Landers (1901–76), won two All Ireland titles with Kerry. An IRA activist, he fought on the anti-treaty side in the civil war and was interned in 1923. He played on the ex-internees team in the famous challenge matches against the Kerry county team in early 1924 and earned a place on the Kerry team that won the 1924 All Ireland, scoring a point in Kerry's 0–4 to 0–3 win over Dublin. He emigrated to the US the following year. In early 1932 he returned as part of the New York football side that toured Ireland. He remained to take part in Kerry's victorious championship campaign of that year and came on as a second-half substitute in the final against Mayo. He later returned to America and died there in 1976.