It was however very much a second-string Usuthu side which did battle in the Limpopo Province, against a Leopards team who recently hired former Orlando Pirates coach Kosta Papic as their ‘technical manager’.
McCarthy admitted to being disappointed at being knocked out, but was satisfied by the fact that he had been able to give some of his fringe players a run.
That included Tshabalala, who only had seven minutes of league action to his name this season prior to the 58 minutes he got against Leopards before being replaced by Mbongeni Gumede.
"We can't be too gutted about the result," McCarthy told SuperSport TV afterwards.
"Of course we always want to win, whichever team you put out there. But you know, the boys fought, and, they gave me a little bit of grey hairs – more – and headaches to think about.
“Because I think there were some great moments. Talent Chawapiwa, that’s not featured, he was superb, he was excellent.
“I think with Shabba you can tell, class is permanent. You know, he’s got the ability, he can pick a pass. Dead ball specialist, so there’s a lot of good quality that was coming out of that. And good performances from loads of the players who don’t usually get to play week in, week out," former Bafana Bafana striker McCarthy continued.
“So there are a lot of positives and that just shows the strength in depth in the team that we have. So hopefully from now until the end of the season we will be able to enter more and more players and get more great performances.
“But at the end of the day it's about winning and when you don’t win, as much as you can praise players for having some good performances and that, the fact of the matter is we are out, Leopards secured their passage to the next stage."