Young, Thompson get Ireland 'A' contracts
Cricket Ireland has upgraded Craig Young and Stuart Thompson to its highest category A contracts, after the retirement of Trent Johnston. Young was recently called up to Ireland's squad for the Caribbean, which departed on Tuesday, while Thompson has been involved with the side since his international debut in 2012.
Four other players were awarded A contracts - Kevin O'Brien, Alex Cusack, John Mooney and Max Sorensen - all of whom are regulars for Ireland. The announcement marks a swift rise for right-arm quick Young, who was not contracted in 2013; Thompson, meanwhile, moves up from the C category.
In total, Cricket Ireland has handed out 24 central contracts, the majority of which are part-time, for those players who have county deals or are in full-time education.
"With Trent Johnston retiring at the end of 2013, we have two young bowlers with great potential in Craig Young and Stuart Thompson available to us full-time," performance director Richard Holdsworth said. "They will no doubt both be pushing for a place in the World Cup squad in 12 months' time.
"Whilst we have a World Cup in March in the Twenty20 format, it is a big year building towards the 50-over World Cup. We feel we have an outstanding crop of players capable of competing and winning matches against Full Members, whilst also developing young players for the future."
For the first time, Cricket Ireland has introduced two-year contracts for a number of first-choice players, including Kevin O'Brien, Mooney and Sorensen, as well as William Porterfield, Ireland's captain, Ed Joyce, Tim Murtagh, Niall O'Brien, Paul Stirling and Gary Wilson.
"Nine of the players have signed two-year agreements, as they are essentially our most valuable players and give the head coach and national selectors certainty over this core group's availability in the lead up to and including the 2015 World Cup," Holdsworth said.
Phil Simmons, Ireland's head coach, said that central contracts had been "a key part of our success over the past seven years". In 2013, Ireland became the first team to hold three ICC Associate and Affiliate titles at the same time, winning the four-day Intercontinental Cup, the WCL Championship (which secured qualification for the 2015 World Cup) and the World Twenty20 Qualifier.
"The composition of the contracted players is an indication of what we strive for in our teams," Simmons said. "There is a delightful spine of experience as well as a number of very talented youngsters. While instant results are paramount, it's always good to be thinking ahead and these contracts offer the younger guys some security as they look to build their careers.
"It's a crucial period now for Irish cricket - 2013 was fantastic, picking up the treble, but that's gone. We have two World Cups ahead of us now and it's important that we pick up results against Full Members, such as against West Indies and Sri Lanka, to keep Irish cricket moving forward as we look to take the game in the country to the next level."
Over the next month, Ireland will take part in the Caribbean's domestic one-day tournament, the Regional Super50, before an ODI and two T20s against West Indies. After the World Twenty20, which takes place in Bangladesh, Ireland will host Sri Lanka for two ODIs in May.