David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo
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Cricket Ireland has set out its strategy to bring full Test status by 2020. Targets include an increase in the number of people playing the game in Ireland to 50,000, reaching eighth in the world rankings and establishing a domestic first-class structure.
A number of commercial deals have been secured, allowing Ireland to unveil their strategic plan to 2015 and target their ultimate ambition of securing Test status. As part of that process Cricket Ireland want to have three first-class teams in place by 2015.
Warren Deutrom, Ireland's chief executive, said: "We have set ourselves a very clear long-term ambition - to become a full Test nation by 2020, nothing less. This is not a dreamy aspiration but a real ambition founded on the playing talent being developed on this island, the growing passion and profile of the game here, a sustained and proven track record of achievement on and off the field and a clear roadmap set out by us for how to get there."
Phil Simmons, the Ireland coach, has also agreed a two-year extension to his contract which will take him through to at least the end of Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign late next year.
Cricket Ireland has offered a record 23 professional contracts to players, in three categories, for 2012, a development Simmons says is vital for their continued improvement.
"A key part of our success to date has been the move to professionalism," Simmons said. "With so many players on full or part-time contracts we now have a structure supporting the senior squad to make sure we can maintain our competitiveness on the international stage."
Initiatives to swell participation numbers to 50,000 will include the establishment of regional academies; a Get Into Cricket scheme which will seek to attract six to 12-year-olds to take up the game in clubs and schools; a Better Clubs Initiative, which will encourage clubs to improve their facilities; and the Cricket Ireland national awards which will recognise contributions ranging from players to volunteers.
"Our commitment to the game at grassroots level will hopefully make a real difference on the ground," Deutrom said. "We want to give as much attention to the domestic game as we have to the international teams in the last four years."
Category A Trent Johnston, Alex Cusack, Kevin O'Brien, John Mooney.
Category B William Porterfield, Niall O'Brien, Paul Stirling, George Dockrell, Gary Wilson, Boyd Rankin, Ed Joyce, Andrew White.
Category C Albert van der Merwe, Nigel Jones, Max Sorensen, Shane Getkate, James Shannon, Stuart Thompson, Andrew Poynter, Andrew Balbirnie, Tom Fisher, Peter Connell, Rory McCann.