Landers, John Joe

01 January 2001
Kerry lost one of its greatest football legends last year with the death of John Joe (Purty) Landers, of St Brendan’s Park, Tralee. Mr Landers, who died at the residence of his daughter, Veronica Toomey in Millstreet was one of three foot-balling brothers who, between them, won twelve All-Ireland senior football medals with Kerry. Aged 94, John Joe Landers was a very gifted forward and played a huge part in bringing the first All-Ireland four-in-a-row to Kerry (1929 to 1932). He won a fifth All-Ireland medal in 1937.

Landers belonged to the Rock Street Hurling and Football Club, which was formed in 1917 and which was to make a huge contribution to the success of Kerry football over the next twenty years or so and later through the magical talents of such as Mikey Sheehy, Ger Power, John O’Keeffe and Ger O’Keeffe.

During the Purty Landers era, the Rock Street team became the dominant force in Kerry football, including, as it did, such famous names as Joe Barrett, Jackie Ryan, Miko Doyle, ’Gawksie’ O’Gorman, ’Pluggy’ Moriarty, ’Pedlar’ Sweeney, Rory O’Connell, ’Gal’ Slattery, Bill Gorman, ’Bracker’ O’Regan, Jimmy Bally, Mick Healy and, of course, his two brothers, Tim ’Roundy’ (five All-Ireland medals) and Bill (two All-Ireland medals). Up to 1926, Rock Street were part of a Tralee John Mitchels county senior football championship team that was well nigh unbeatable. In that year, because of the Tralee dominance, the County GAA Board insisted that Boherbee, Rock Street and Strand Street would each have to field a team of their own in the county championship.

It didn’t keep the Rock down. They won the county football championships of 1928, 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1936, by which time the club had changed its name to Austin Stacks.

Purty Landers was part of all those triumphs and, to add another very important piece to the legend, he was also a brilliant hurler (like many of his football team-mates) and he helped the Rock to win the county senior hurling triple in 1928, 1929 and 1931, as well as being part of the victorious Tralee team in 1925.

The highlight of a glorious career undoubtedly came in 1932 when Kerry completed the All-Ireland four-in-a-row.

Interviewed two years ago, after being chosen as a Kerry Hall of Fame winner Landers was quoted thus about the ’32 All-Ireland final against Mayo.

“It was a lovely day and we came up against a strong, physical Mayo team who were great in the air. Joe Barrett was the captain and it was wonderful to bring the Sam Maguire Cup back to town and up the Rock again.

“It was a different game then, of course. There was never much handpassing, to get a man out of a corner and you had to be able to look after yourself.

“That year, we all went to Dublin by car. You’d go a few days beforehand that time and stay in Barry’s Hotel.

“Special trains would run up and down on the day and they would be black with people. In fact, some people used to cycle to Dublin. You’d even get the fellows who walked there, starting out maybe a week before hand with the grub in their pockets. Football was everything in those days.”

Purty Landers credited his famous nickname to another Rock Street and Kerry footballer ’Pluggy’ Moriarty. ’Pluggy said about me one evening with other people listening ’God, he’s a purty (pretty) boy’ and the name just stuck with me after that,” he said in his 1999 interview.

Landers went on four tours to America and played in Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds as well as in Soldiers Field in Chicago.

Everywhere, he was acknowledged as one of the most complete footballers of the game and in 1985, at the age of 78, he was accorded a very special honour at the All-Stars Banquet, when, along with his brother Roundy, he received an All-Time All-Star Award.

He was married to the former Margaret Broom, Tralee, and is survived by four daughters, Veronica, Marietta, Patricia and Treasa.

One of his grandchildren, John Landers-Byrne, son of Treasa, received the Kerry Hall of Fame Award of his behalf in 1999.