Having spent most of his career at Linfield, he was noted for his scoring ability, being nicknamed 'Buckets'.
Having signed as a youth with Linfield F.C. in 1977, McGaughey made his first team debuts midway through 1980–81, finishing his debut season with 14 goals in all competitions, including a brace in the County Antrim Shield final against Glentoran FC (4–1).
In 1984–85, he finished second in the European Golden Shoe race, to F.C. Porto's Fernando Gomes, scoring 34 league goals in 26 matches (56 overall), and failing to add more as his season was cut short due to a severe knee injury. In the club's European Cup campaign, McGaughey helped it reach the second round, where he scored twice in a 3–3 home draw to Panathinaikos FC (in a valiant 4–5 aggregate exit). In that season, he was also named the Ulster Footballer of the Year.
Although he received a lot of interest from 'larger' clubs (notably England's Barnsley), McGaughey never left the country, and finished his career with a season at Ards FC, retiring in 1994 due to recurrent physical problems. With Linfield, he netted 317 official goals, in 533 matches, also being team and league's top scorer in 1983–84 (15 goals), 1987–88 (18) and 1989–90 (19), helping the club to six national championships and one domestic cup.
- M. Brodie (ed.), Northern Ireland Soccer Yearbook 2009-2010, p. 102. Belfast:Ulster Tatler Publications
- Northern Ireland 3–0 Israel (16/10/1984); at UpThePosh