Barely a month-and-a-half after taking over from Eric Tinkler in the Cape Town City hotseat, McCarthy found himself in line for a first trophy as head coach as the Citizens squared off with SuperSport United in the 2017 MTN8 final, only to end off second-best following a penalty shootout defeat.
A year later, Bafana Bafana’s all-time leading goal scorer finds himself in the same position against the very same opponents yet with a year’s experience under the belt.
Despite this, he feels this final is “worse” as there are greater expectations upon him from club chairman John Comitis.
“It’s worse!” he said in comparing last year’s final to this weekend’s showdown. “The first one, I was only a month into coaching, so I had no chance of getting fired if we lost. Now I’m steady and I have stability, so now there’s every chance that the chairman might aim a shotgun at me if we don’t get over the line with this one.”
McCarthy does however feel he’s in a better position now, and has a better squad, than a year ago, believing that a year in charge has taught him well.
“I was fearless then as I had never been in that situation, but now that I have, and after a year in the job, I’m a bit more cautious and a bit more wary of things that could go wrong,” he said. “I was confident the last time that we had a good-enough team to win it, but didn’t think we’d suck at penalties. But I’ve grown and learnt and improved, and my team has also improved and matured, and I think we’re in a better situation than we were last season.”
City reached the final with a penalty shootout victory over Mamelodi Sundowns, yet when quizzed about his side’s chances should Saturday’s contest end up in spot-kicks, McCarthy remained objective.
“Don’t be fooled by one shootout,” he said, before adding, “I think we have specialists now in the team, specialising in penalty-taking, and the team’s depth is far better than it was last season.”
Kick-off at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday is set for 19h00.