Cricket Ireland have announced a massive investment in playing resources ahead of the 2011 World Cup with the award of six full-time contracts to home-based players plus cash assistance for county stars.

Trent Johnston Alex Cusack, Andre Botha, Kevin O’Brien, John Mooney and Paul Stirling will each be given the backing to allow them to focus on training and preparations for the showpiece event to held on the Indian sub-continent.

The funding for what is the boldest initiative by any of the non-Test playing countries will be supplied by sponsors RSA Insurance, the Irish and British governments in the form of Sports Council funding and the increased revenue from the International Cricket Council following World Cup qualification.

In addition to the six ’A’ contracts, three players employed by English county sides - William Porterfield, Niall O’Brien and Boyd Rankin - and schoolteacher Andrew White will receive support through ’B’ contracts.

The remaining Category ‘C’ will see the remaining players all vie for the other five places on offer ahead of the 2011 World Cup.

Such levels of support could only be dreamed about by previous squads as it was only 12 months ago that Cricket Ireland was able to introduce its first central contracts - awarded to Johnston and Cusack.

Cricket Ireland Chief Executive Warren Deutrom said: “We are delighted to be able to increase the number of our contracted players from two to six. Together with our County-contracted players, that brings to 10 the number of Irish cricketers playing and training on a professional basis. 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.”

Ireland coach Phil Simmons is particularly pleased to have so many players on a full-time basis, adding: “We all saw just how much Trent and Alex improved last year with being able to commit all their focus to full-time cricket. 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. It’ll stand us in good stead as we prepare for the next intensive 15 months of cricket in the lead up to the World Cup.”