Soccer

Tom Cannon eager to learn from debut defeat with Republic of Ireland

The Leicester striker described his debut as ‘bittersweet’.

Tom Cannon played the final 37 minutes (Robbie Stephenson/AP)
Tom Cannon played the final 37 minutes (Robbie Stephenson/AP) (Robbie Stephenson/PA)

Tom Cannon was taught a harsh lesson about international football as Cristiano Ronaldo gatecrashed his senior debut for the Republic of Ireland.

The 21-year-old Leicester frontman came on as a substitute in Tuesday night’s 3-0 friendly defeat by Euro 2024-bound Portugal in Aveiro, and witnessed at close hand just how tough the game at that level can be.

Ireland were up against it from the off against one of the sides tipped to go a long way in Germany, and ultimately succumbed to a superb Ronaldo double after Joao Felix had opened the scoring.

Cannon said: “It was bittersweet. It was a proud day for me and my family, to make my debut, and it was a nice feeling. The result was tough, but they are a good side, a top team, one of the favourites for the Euros, so we learn from it, regroup and go again.

“They have the likes of Ronaldo and Rafael Leao – it’s tough to deal with.

“It’s one of those in games – you have to try to see it off and then take your chances. Unfortunately we didn’t do that here. As soon as they got one, they scored a couple.

“They are a good side and it’s still hard to deal with, but we regroup and go again.”

Having been handed his debut by interim boss John O’Shea, Cannon will hope to be involved when the squad next meets up ahead of September’s Nations League opener against England.

The Football Association of Ireland has vowed to have a new head coach in place by then, with O’Shea now in the reckoning after two temporary spells at the helm.

However, whoever is in charge in September, Cannon might have strengthened his case for inclusion had he been able to make the most of the one chance which came his way.

He said: “It was tough. To be fair it’s hard in the heat of the moment, defenders are running back, it felt like it just didn’t sit right.

“There’s always the next game – and it’s England next.”

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace (Luis Vieira/AP)
Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace (Luis Vieira/AP) (Luis Vieira/AP)

Asked if there was concern within the camp about the apparent disparity between the teams, Cannon said: “It’s a good group of lads, a good group. They have good quality players, but so have we.

“Come September, I am sure the lads will be ready, getting minutes into the legs. We will give it our all, and we have players to come back [from injury], which will only make the team stronger.”

Cannon will now head off on his summer break before returning to prepare for life in the Premier League, with the Foxes also searching for a new boss after Enzo Maresca’s departure for Chelsea.

He said: “It doesn’t really enter your head. Our manager’s gone to Chelsea, it will be interesting who we appoint. All I can do is go back and try to impress in pre-season and go from there.”