Max Sorensen has been rewarded with an 'A' contract by Cricket Ireland for the 2013 season.
Sorensen, 27, is one of five major beneficiaries of the 17 contracts announced by the sports body, with a further five contracts still to be offered.
The Hills opening bowler joins established stars Trent Johnston, John Mooney, Alex Cusack and Kevin O'Brien in the top bracket of deals.
Four younger players have been given deals in the 'C' band, one of four categories of contracts, dedicated to players who are in full-time education.
This is headed by Stuart Thompson, who is already a full international.
Pace bowler Peter Chase and the Cricket Ireland Young Player of the Year Tyrone Kane both earn contracts for the first time as Ireland look to the future following the recent retirements of Boyd Rankin, Nigel Jones and Albert van der Merwe.
Cricket Ireland Performance Director Richard Holdsworth said: "It is important Cricket Ireland has plans for the future, and whilst 2013 will be a huge year for the team, we must also look ahead to major ICC events – the World Twenty20 in 2014 and the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand the following year.
"We have therefore awarded a full ‘A’ contract to Max Sorensen who impressed everyone in 2012, taking 31 wickets at just 17 runs each in the 21 games he played.
"Nine of the 17 contracted players are also contracted to English counties, and our close relationships with those counties will hopefully allow them to play for Ireland as much as possible in addition to the ICC mandatory matches in season. In due course we shall be offering an additional five ‘D’ contracts to players who we feel have long-term potential."
Ireland's coach, Phil Simmons, said: "There's no doubt that a key part of our success to date has been the move to professionalism. We will now have 22 players on full or part-time contracts and a structure supporting the senior squad.
"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 over the past five of six years.
"The composition of the contracted players is an indication of what I strive for in my teams. There is the spine of experience as well as a number of very talented youngsters. While immediate 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.
"As with any squad, there are bound to be a few players who are disappointed to miss out on a contract offer. With the new Inter-Provincial Series coming on track, they will all have the chance to prove me wrong, and the door remains open for additional contracts."
For Thompson, a 21-year-old second-year Geography student at Northumbria University in Newcastle, the awarding of a contract is an important stepping stone as he looks to build a career with the international side.
He said: "It's fantastic to have added responsibility, and I hope it opens up more opportunities to play for the national side.
"Cricket Ireland have a number of exciting and quality fixtures this year, including the inter-provincials throughout the summer, so I'm hoping to play - and more importantly perform - in as many of those fixtures as I can."
Cricket Ireland contracted players for 2013
A category (5):
Alex Cusack, Trent Johnston, John Mooney, Kevin O’Brien, Max Sorensen.
B category (8)
George Dockrell*, Ed Joyce*, Tim Murtagh*, Niall O’Brien*, William Porterfield*, Paul Stirling*, Andrew White, Gary Wilson*.
C category (4):
Peter Chase, Tyrone Kane, James Shannon, Stuart Thompson.
*County contracted players