Substitute Alan Browne ensured a game that marked the Football Association of Ireland’s centenary would not end in disappointment as he powered home an 86th-minute header at the Aviva Stadium.
It was no more than Stephen Kenny’s side deserved after Chiedozie Ogbene had cancelled out Michy Batshuayi’s sumptuous opener, only for Hans Vanaken’s deflected header to hand the visitors the lead once again.
It was no more than Stephen Kenny’s side deserved – they are now unbeaten in seven outings and have now lost only once in 11, and that against Portugal – after Chiedozie Ogbene had cancelled out Michy Batshuayi’s sumptuous opener, only for Hans Vanaken’s deflected header to hand the visitors the lead once again.
"It's progression, that's what we wanted to see," declared McCarthy. "To get a performance like that and a result like that against Belgium, the world No.1 ranked team, was fantastic.
"They had a lot of their best players out, but you can only play against what is against you and Ireland were great.
"It was an excellent second half and I thought Ireland were the better side. They were the team trying to win it all the time and it was a great goal at the end from Alan Brown. He's always a threat in the box and that was a brilliant header.
"Ogbene was great all night. He chased down that ball to set up the chance for Alan and he put in a fabulous header.
"And his goal in the first half was fantastic as well. The lad was so happy and rightly so. He gave us the best smile of the day and it was great to see."
Goals have been lacking for Ireland from open play in recent years, but this was a night when two came from open play by following the Kenny ethos of free-flowing football.
"They got what they deserved from the game and after a good start from Belgium, Ireland got back into it by pressing high and turning in a really good performance," added McCarthy.
"Ireland had the better chances, they've had the better goal attempts and they have come from behind twice.
"Stephen will be disappointed by the manner they conceded the second goal, but getting the draw at the end was brilliant."
Ireland are now seven matches unbeaten under Kenny heading into Tuesday night's game against Lithuania.