The Vikings will go into next Saturday’s table-top clash at Sligo Rovers trailing the leaders by five points.
Kilkenny had taken an early lead after an enterprising start to the match when James Duffy dispossessed Alan Keely in the 22nd minute to release Philip Sheppard on the right wing. Sheppard sent in a low cross which was met by Dave O’Connor who headed home.
The Vikings were back on terms 16 minutes later when club captain Trevor Vaughan swept the ball home from 10 yards after meeting a Robbie Collins cross from the left.
And when the skipper was fouled by Shane Guthrie two minutes later, Vaughan picked himself up and delivered the perfect response, hammering a free-kick through Kilkenny’s wall from 20 yards out.
But the visitors deserved their draw and after dominating the second half substitute McCarthy struck in the 84th minute, firing home Tadhg Purcell’s corner.
Purcell could and should have won it for the Cats in injury time but blew the chance by shooting wide.