Thompson, Young Earn Ireland Contracts
Young pace bowlers Stuart Thompson and Craig Young have been awarded category A deals as two of 24 players given contracts by Cricket Ireland.
Thompson and Young have the opportunity to compete for a place in the Ireland squad following the retirement of former captain Trent Johnston.
The other four players to be given category A deals are Alex Cusack, John Mooney, Kevin O'Brien and Max Sorensen.
"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," said Performance Director Richard Holdsworth.
Alex Cusack, John Mooney+, Kevin O'Brien+, Max Sorensen+, Stuart Thompson, Craig Young
William Porterfield*+ (captain), George Dockrell*, Ed Joyce*+, Andrew McBrine, Graeme McCarter*, Tim Murtagh*+, Niall O'Brien*+, Stuart Poynter*, Eddie Richardson, James Shannon, Paul Stirling*+, Andrew White, Gary Wilson*+
John Anderson, Andrew Balbirnie*, Peter Chase, Tyrone Kane, Andrew Poynter
* = contracted by an English county
+ = two-year contract
"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," he added.
"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."
As part of their build-up to the World Cup, Ireland are taking part in the NAGICO Super50, the domestic competition in the West Indies.
Explaining the contracts, Holdsworth added:
"The six full-time category A players are available to Ireland all year round.
"Eighteen players have agreed category B or C part-time contracts and are either playing English county cricket and primarily available for ICC mandatory release matches, are working part or full-time in other employment, or are still studying at College or University.
"Ten of these players have county contracts in England and so they are in a good environment to further develop their skills, whilst the remaining 14 players will take part in the second year of the highly successful Inter-Provincial competitions."
Nine players have also signed two-year deals, which, as Holdsworth explains, is a new initiative designed to give players and Cricket Ireland stability.
"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 ICC World Cup."
EARLY 2014 - BUSY TIMES FOR IRELAND
January-February: NAGICO Super50 in West Indies
February: 1 ODI, 2 T20Is v West Indies
March-April: ICC World Twenty20, Bangladesh
May: 2 ODIs v Sri Lanka
National coach Phil Simmons added: "There’s no doubt that a key part of our success over the past seven years has been the move to professionalism. We will now have 24 players on full or part-time contracts and a structure supporting the senior squad.
"For me, it makes such a difference as a coach to be able to work with players on a regular basis and this has been reflected in our dominance at Associate level.
"The composition of the contracted players is an indication of what we strive for in our teams. 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 now. 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 in May, to keep Irish cricket moving forward as we look to take the game in the country to the next level - these contracts will help us do that.
"As with any squad, there are going to be a few players who are disappointed to miss out on a contract offer. That's the beauty of the Inter-Provincial Series which will be in its second year. Players will have the chance to impress us, and they know that the door is always open."
© Cricket World 2014