League of Ireland clubs have signed two more New Zealanders with international pedigrees.
Sligo Rovers have signed All White striker Max Mata (21) only days after clinching a deal with his international teammate, defender Nando Pijnaker.
Rival club Sherbourne have signed defender Adam Thomas (29) who has represented New Zealand at U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels.
Main photo: Max Mata / Phototek
Mata: ‘I’ll be totally committed to succeeding here’
After spending the early part of his career with the Wellington Phoenix and Auckland’s Onehunga Sports and Eastern Suburbs clubs, Mata arrives in Ireland after playing last year for Real Monarchs in the United States.
He told Irish media:
“When the chance came up I didn’t have to think long about it. I want to play games and I want to score goals and Ireland was very appealing.
“I’ve played in Europe before and done well and I definitely think I can do it again.
“I enjoyed the experience in America last season, with a regret of not playing as much as I would have liked. I’m very motivated to come to Sligo, play games and score goals.
“I don’t think integration will be a problem being an English-speaking country. I’m excited to experience the League of Ireland and play here. It’s just a matter of being focused and I’ll be totally committed to succeeding here.”
Mata’s experience in Europe came with Swiss side Grasshopper and a loan spell with Estonian outfit Nomme Kalju.
The striker scored nine times in 11 league starts for Kaiju and played in their Europa League qualifier against Celtic.
Damien Duff: Adam Thomas ‘has a lot of quality’
Sherbourne manager Damien Duff signed Thomas after the Kiwi completed a successful trial at the club.
Thomas had the option of playing in Sweden but was persuaded to join Shelbourne in time for their season opener, a derby against St Patrick’s Athletic.
Said Duff: “Adam has shown amazing desire to come to Europe off his own back to pursue a career here. He has trained really well with us and has settled brilliantly with the squad. He has a lot of quality and has the versatility to play many positions. He is a great addition to the group.”
Thomas has been impressed during his trial at the club.
“Training has been class with the standards really high along with the intensity and focus on position which I have really enjoyed.
“I’ve talked to a couple of people I know in the league and I’m looking forward to the new challenge. It’s a huge opportunity for myself to be coached by Damien Duff and from a defenders point of view with Joey O’Brien who is top class. It’s very exciting.”
(O’Brien is a former Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United defender, now assistant manager at Shelbourne.)
Mata happy to be re-united with All Whites team mate
Mata’s arrival at Sligo gives him the chance to play beside fellow New Zealand international Nando Pijnaker.
“I was with Nando in Switzerland and with New Zealand obviously so it’ll be a help for sure. It’ll also be good for settling into training and the team so that’s great. I’m looking forward to meeting all my team-mates and making my debut as soon as I can.”
Kiwis in Ireland
New Zealanders to have played for League of Ireland clubs include:
Jason Batty – Bohemians
Che Bunce – Drogheda United
Sean Byrne – St Patrick’s Athletic, Dundalk
Henry Cameron – Limerick
Billy de Graaf – Shelbourne
Raf de Gregorio – Bohemians
Ryan De Vries – Sligo Rovers
Dean Dodds – Bohemians
Kevin Fallon – Sligo Rovers
Lee Jones – Drogheda United
Max Mata – Sligo Rovers
Heremaia Ngata – Bohemians
Nando Pijnaker – Sligo Rovers
Adam Thomas – Shelbourne
Gavin Wilkinson – Kilkenny City
Darren Young – Limerick, Waterford United, Athlone Town, Mervue United