Michael Cornyn: The Early Running Years

March 04, 2024

Michael Cornyn's journey into the world of running began at the age of 14, when he first participated in local sports events. Little did he know that this initial step would set the stage for a remarkable juvenile and junior career in athletics.

In those early years, Leitrim Vocational schools played a pivotal role in shaping Cornyn's trajectory. The county championships became a turning point, showcasing his talent. His prowess was evident when he triumphed in every event at the local schools trials, setting the stage for a showdown at the county championships.

One particular memory stands out – a fierce 800m competition where Cornyn faced a formidable opponent from Ballinamore PP school. With strategic timing, he made a decisive move about 300m from the finish, securing victory and leaving his competitor trailing behind. This victory not only marked his emergence on the local scene but also highlighted his potential in the 800m event.

However, bureaucratic hurdles threatened to hinder Cornyn's progress. Despite his success, he was initially barred from entering the county championships due to not being a club member. Michael O'Brien of Carrick AC told him that if he agreed to join a club immediately he would allow him to compete. Cornyn, knowing a few athletes who competed for North Leitrim AC, promptly asked the club if he could join and was then allowed to compete.

From the age of 17 onward, Cornyn's dominance extended beyond local competitions. Winning titles at both Leitrim and Connacht levels became a routine for him. In 1978, he claimed the Leitrim young athlete of the year award for his victory in the senior 800m on a challenging grass track. The County Male athlete of the year award followed suit, recognising his exceptional performances across various events in the Vocational Schools category.

The subsequent years witnessed a continuous upward trajectory for Cornyn. Despite facing logistical challenges, including living 20 miles away from the club and relying on hitchhiking for transportation, his dedication and self-coaching propelled him forward.

In 1979, Cornyn clinched the Connacht and All Ireland Junior Inter counties 800m titles, solidifying his status as a rising star in Irish athletics. His versatility was further showcased with a commendable 3rd place finish in the Connacht Novice Cross Country event.

The year 1980 brought more victories, including the Connacht 400m in an impressive 52.9 seconds and the 3,000m in the O'Duffy Cup. Despite finishing 2nd in the trials, Cornyn emerged victorious on the day, highlighting his competitive spirit and resilience.

Cornyn's success extended beyond track events. He secured wins in the Tubbercurry 10k Senior Road race and the inaugural Senior Inter-counties road race in Carrick on Shannon. The latter victory, alongside notable athletes like Noel Farrell and Hugo Cafferty, showcased his prowess on both track and road.

The All Ireland Junior 800m final in 1980 saw Cornyn finish 6th with a time of 1 minute 59 seconds, facing fierce competition from Brian McDonald of Clonliffe. This year marked the introduction of heats to qualify for the final, adding an extra layer of challenge to the competition.

The cross-country terrain proved to be no obstacle for Cornyn. In December of 1980, he secured his first Leitrim Senior Cross Country title, further establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with across various disciplines.

From 1978 to 1980, North Leitrim AC's junior cross-country team achieved significant success, earning numerous Connacht medals. Despite facing strong competition from clubs like Pearse AC in Galway, Cornyn's team showcased their prowess, finishing 5th in the All Ireland Inter clubs race in Ballyfin in 1978.

However, injuries marred Cornyn's performance in the subsequent years, preventing him from achieving his full potential in cross-country events. Nonetheless, he left an indelible mark on the Irish athletics scene during his juvenile and junior years.

Navigating the challenges of transportation and support, Cornyn's journey exemplifies the resilience and passion that characterise lifelong runners. His achievements during these formative years laid the foundation for a continued legacy in the world of Irish athletics.