And as the former Bafana Bafana striker has always done, it proved to be just as successful as he went on to win the treble with the Buccaneers.
Now, in the next phase of his career, as head coach of Cape Town City, the 40-year-old McCarthy won’t allow sentiment to derail him from his mission to dent Pirates’ title ambitions.
City host the Soweto club at the Cape Town Stadium today and as things stand at the top, defeat could well spell the end of Pirates’ title challenge.
Emotion and nostalgia will be in the air for McCarthy today, but, once the referee blows the whistle to get the 90 minutes under way, victory will be the only thing on the mind of the City coach.
With two games to go, Mamelodi Sundowns top the PSL standings with 56 points, with Pirates in second on 52. Sundowns host a much-improved Ajax Cape Town today, where the Buccaneers will be hoping the Pretoria club stumble against the Capetonians.
But, if that does happen, Pirates will have to beat City to take the title race to the final day.
McCarthy is fully aware of this, but he has no intention of making things easy for his former club.
The City coach has his own concerns as he heads into the final two games of the season - Pirates today and AmaZulu away on May 12.
While his team has been fantastic in the manner in which they have gone about their football, the goals have been lacking. Last Wednesday, in a 1-1 draw with Polokwane City, the Cape side dominated possession and territory, created a host of scoring opportunities, but failed to kill off the opposition. It has been the same story for the entire campaign.
McCarthy says he will continue to work on it. The one thing he is happy with, though, is that in his first season as a coach he has managed to infuse the team with the style of play his coaching approach favours.
“My philosophy is to have teams that build up play from the back and for that you need players who are comfortable on the ball,” said McCarthy.
“Here at City, I have that, with players like Robyn Johannes, Thami Mkhize, Edmilson and others, who even though they are defenders, are very good in possession.
“I like to have ball players in my team, so I can bring in the system I like because there is nothing nicer in football than having the ball all the time.
“Which footballer doesn’t want to have the ball? As a team, we have proven this season that we are one of the best teams when it comes to build-up play and, if we had been able to convert possession into goals, we would have done far better.
“I think it’s a case of the players being a bit anxious at times and they lose composure when in scoring positions. It will come - I am in my first season and, with more finishing touches, I am confident that next season we will be much better in the final third.”
McCarthy has no doubt about what is needed against Pirates today.
“There is no need for motivation,” he said.
“We beat Pirates the last time we played them, and we just have to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.
“If we turn up, we will make a game of it; but if we think we are already on holiday, then things could go pear-shaped.
“Overall, we have been playing well, unfortunately results just haven’t gone our way. But I still have ambitions of finishing as high as possible, so we just have to keep working hard in these remaining games.”
Today’s fixtures (all 3pm kick-offs): Bidvest Wits v AmaZulu; Mamelodi Sundowns v Ajax Cape Town; Cape Town City v Orlando Pirates; Kaizer Chiefs v Maritzburg United; Chippa United v SuperSport United; Free State Stars v Polokwane City; Baroka FC v Bloemfontein Celtic; Golden Arrows v Platinum Stars