Cronberry, Ayrshire born centre half David McCartney began his football career playing with junior sides Cronberry Eglinton in 1898, Dalbeattie in 1899 and Lugar Boswell in August 1900, from where he joined Second Division Glossop the same October, making his Football League debut against Gainsborough Trinity the same month. He soon established himself as Glossop’s first choice pivot, before joining Southern League Watford in May 1903 after 5 goals in 78 appearances for The Hillmen.
At Watford he received double the normal signing on fee, £10, which probably reflected Watford’s desire to have him join. He won the Southern League Second Division Championship while at Cassio Road scoring 14 goals in 91 appearances before being signed by Second Division Chelsea in May 1906, but he only appeared 3 times for The Pensioners, and returned to the Southern League with Northampton Town in May 1907, where he was club captain. Described as “a reliable player who uses his head to advantage. Strong tackler and passes with good judgement”, he played 36 times for The Cobblers as they won the Southern League Championship in 1909 and played in the 1909 FA Charity Shield match when Northampton lost 2-0 to Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge. Having scored 10 goals in 108 appearances for The Cobblers he retired in the summer of 1910.
His brother Willie McCartney was a left half who made 10 appearances for Barnsley between 1901 and 1903.