Tynecastle is the ground where boyhood heroes trod and where he took his own kiddie steps in his chosen career with a first team breakthrough alongside a wave of young Gorgie talents.
Having left Hearts for St Johnstone in summer 2015, though, McKay’s one previous homecoming in opposition colours turned into something of a personal horror show. In front of a large Sunday television audience, the central defender’s excitement at being back got the better of him in an August 2015 season’s opener.
After only a few minutes’ play, a slip while in possession near the centre line saw Hearts’ striker Juanma surge away to score a gift of an opening goal in an eventual 4-3 triumph over the Perth visitors.
Three years on, the older, wiser 25-year-old aims to temper the emotions he believes wreaked havoc in that match. Whatever tricks fate might play in the League Cup group C decider, none of it, McKay insists, will be down to a lack of focus or nostalgia for his surroundings.
He said: “I’ve not had fond memories of Tynecastle since leaving. When I went back there with St Johnstone, the first league fixture threw us up against Hearts at Tynecastle.
“I was buzzing. It was my first start for St Johnstone and I made a horrendous error near the halfway line where I slipped and lost the ball. The manager told me at half-time not to worry about it, saying ‘everyone makes mistakes – you slipped’ but it proved costly.
“Football does these things to you. I actually spoke to Josh Meekings when he came back up to play us after leaving Inverness and said ‘be careful – control your emotions’.
“If you end up getting overly-emotional, it can be an issue and you can’t really focus on your job. You get wound up in your thoughts. I was excited for the Hearts trip with St Johnstone, not nervous in the usual way, and I went back and made that mistake. It was live on BT Sport on the Sunday, so a lot of people saw it.
“The next time we played them in the league, we drew, but I was suspended for that one so I’ve not been back since. You can learn from it, but if I go and slip on Sunday, it is what it is – there’s nothing you can do about it.
“But I know this time I’ll not be so emotionally-attached and excited to be back as I was last time. I’ll try to contain my emotions.
“It is a big chance for the players here to go and make a mark and impress. Let’s be honest, no-one wants to stay at this level forever.
“The manager tells us all the time: if you want to get to the next level, this is what you have to do. These are the places where you have to perform.”