Martin O'Neill's outfit stunned the Premier League on Sunday by beating leaders Manchester City.
But Wigan showed their spirit by forcing a 2-2 draw at Stoke despite being down to 10 men. Midfielder McCarthy said: "To come back the way we did shows how much we've come along in a year.
"Sunderland have picked up since Martin O'Neill took charge. But we went there a few weeks ago and won. We want to start 2012 in the best possible way."