Cricket Ireland has announced it will award six full-time contracts in the build-up to the 2011 World Cup as well as offering additional financial support to county-based players.
Andre Botha, Alex Cusack, Trent Johnston, John Mooney, Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling will all be given "A" contracts, allowing them to concentrate on preparing for the World Cup. Three county-contracted players - Niall O'Brien, Boyd Rankin and William Porterfield - along with Andrew White will receive "B" contracts, while five others, yet to be named, will get "C" contracts.
The funding comes from RSA Insurance, the Irish and British governments, and is underpinned by increased income from the ICC.
"This increase in professionalism would simply not be possible without the support of the ICC, our two Sports Councils and our exceptional team sponsor, RSA," explained the board's chief executive, Warren Deutrom.
"We all saw just how much Trent and Alex improved last year with being able to commit all their focus to full-time cricket," added Phil Simmons, the coach. "It gives the players peace and security, and lets them concentrate their efforts. It's another step forward for Irish cricket, and shows just how serious we are in our intentions."