LONGFORD TOWN chairman Jim Hanley has indicated he is set to offer Tony Cousins (right) a new contract at the end of this season – even if Town fail to win promotion.
Cousins has overcome "the toughest season" of his career after a betting scandal rocked his dressing-room midway through the campaign.
Favoured at one stage to win automatic promotion, they have been forced to go through the play-off route.
Yet even this hasn't been straightforward. On Friday, they overcame a 2-0 aggregate deficit to lead 3-2 with 20 seconds remaining of extra-time, when Paul Sinnott scored an unlikely equaliser to offer Mervue a lifeline.
However, a successful penalty shoot-out allowed Cousins to breathe a little easier – and Hanley offered him a vote of confidence moments later.
Hanley said: "Tony has done a superb job here and I'd love him to stay. We'll certainly be sitting down for talks after this Friday. In the meantime, we have a couple of big matches to win."
The first of those two play-off matches against Bray takes place tonight at the Carlisle Grounds, with Cousins believing the psychological edge lies with his team.
"I'd rather be in our position, aiming to get into the top flight than be in Bray's, fighting to survive," Cousins said.
"Whether that has any bearing on the result is something only time will tell, though, because football can throw up a number of surprises.
"You only have to look at this season for proof of that. At one point we were coasting. Then we were told Colm James (Longford's former player who has since been handed an 18-month ban) was being investigated for betting on a match we were involved in.
"The mood in the camp changed immediately. All of a sudden, I had different players coming to me and saying, 'gaffer, I've been called in by the FAI for a meeting to give my version of events about what went on.'
"You can't tell me that isn't a distraction. Results suffered but I never said anything about it because you'd clearly be seen as someone searching for excuses.
"It's easier to speak about the event now because we're in a play-off and the saga is behind us, although I believe the gardai are investigating it now.
"The whole episode just made the job harder. Management is difficult enough as it is but this was the toughest year yet – because we had six long-term injuries as well. But hopefully this week will give us a happy ending."