Sunderland born inside left, later left half Frank Cornan began his football career with Sunderland Black Watch in 1900 and played for Willington Athletic in 1901 before joining Second Division club Barnsley in 1902, his senior debut coming in an FA Cup tie at Belper Town that November, scoring twice in a 4-1 victory. A week later he made his Football League debut in a defeat at Preston North End and was regularly on the scoresheet for The Tykes, returning 13 goals in 26 matches in his debut season. He remained a regular in the team over the next two seasons, mainly playing inside left, but in 1904-05 he spent half a season at centre half, however he was far less prolific and by the time he was signed by First Division Small Heath (now Birmingham City) in the summer of 1905 he had scored 22 goals for Barnsley in 93 appearances.
He got his first opportunity for Small Heath at the end of October, and played his first 5 matches at inside left, but thereafter mainly played at left half, however after Birmingham’s (by now they had changed their name) relegation in 1908 he transferred across the city to rivals Aston Villa for £350 in the 1908 close season having scored once in 61 appearances for The Blues. In a single season at Villa Park he made 16 appearances in 1908-09 before returning to north east football with Spennymoor United the next summer.
Cornan returned to Barnsley during 1909-10 but didn’t feature in their first eleven, joining Lancashire Combination club Nelson in 1910. While there Cornan had starred against Exeter City in an FA Cup tie and this prompted Grecians manager Arthur Chadwick to sign the player in the summer of 1911. He made his Southern League debut in a 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers in October of that year, with Cornan scoring Exeter’s goal. After 6 goals in 28 appearances, Cornan left St James’ Park at the end of the season, returning to Barnsley for a third spell at Oakwell, adding a further 6 appearances to his tally towards the end of the 1912-13 campaign before retiring from professional football.