Are you using New or Old Search? Unless there has been a change I'm unaware of wildcard searches require a minimum of 3 characters. I don't use New Search as a rule but you can set the location to County Cork using "Restrict to exact" in the location field. Old Search doesn't always have the capability to narrow the locations further in some databases.
I am sure many users would find being able to exclude or restrict searches to specific records or groups within collections as well.
Others users may be able to provide more details regarding your other questions or suggestions.