"I feel we’re getting there," were Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s operative words following Saturday’s comfortable qualifier win.
As Cork did indeed give further indication that their darling buds have transformed into green shoots, the Cork manager had plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
He had a couple to be fearful too. Cork gave themselves too many defensive frights and some desperate interventions had to be made to deny Wexford goal opportunities.
In the end though, they won this game in a canter which, given they had just seven days — a week less than Wexford — to prepare for this qualifier, was noteworthy.
"I’m pleased but it’s a work in progress," said Barry-Murphy.
"There’s a lot of work to do to be up to the top teams — we know that — but we’re delighted to be in the quarter-finals and that was our target at the start of the year and that job’s done as far as that is concerned.
"I’m certain we’re not as far advanced as we’d like to be. We know we’ve a long way to go and we got a few good scores today and I’m encouraged by that."
Luke O’Farrell’s DNA was all over Cork’s three goals and on that basis alone his inclusion was justified as the attack looked considerably more ruthless than they had been of late.
By the 21st minute, they had scored their three goals, an amount bettering their entire total for their three previous games against Kilkenny, Tipperary and Offaly.
O’Farrell’s speed earned him the first goal, showing Matthew O’Hanlon a clean pair of heels, while his anticipatory skills were exquisite in beating Éanna Martin to a dropping ball from Pa Cronin in the 19th minute.
Two minutes later and he drew the penalty which Anthony Nash smashed to the net and in a seven-minute spree the Midleton 22-year-old had unravelled Wexford.
"The goals in the first half were helpful and we haven’t been getting goals," said Barry-Murphy, who admitted Pat Horgan had been replaced as penalty-taker by Nash after the captain’s attempt against Offaly was saved.
Wexford, to their credit, responded immediately to each of Cork’s goals, Diarmuid Lyng, scorer of two superb sideline cuts in the opening half, losing his marker to beat Nash straight after O’Farrell’s first score.
Harry Kehoe and then Lyng were on the board quickly after the second and third Cork goals to stabilise Wexford.
With young Jack Guiney showing well, they also had two more goal chances via Eoin Quigley, who had his shot saved by Nash, and then Eoin Cadogan’s superb last-gasp tackle denied Kehoe.
Saying all that, Wexford trailed by just two points — 3-7 to 1-11 — at the break but Barry-Murphy wasn’t overly concerned that Cork hadn’t maximised their dominance in general play.
"We played against a strong breeze and should have been further ahead but Wexford, playing with the breeze, are going to come at you and we just felt we lacked a bit of intensity before half time but we got it going again in the second half and were comfortable in the end."
They also posted eight wides in the first half but that didn’t bother the boss either.
"Yeah, but you’re not going to steamroll these teams. We’re not in the position to be over-confident against anybody and we’re coming from a fairly low base so we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made. I know we have a long way to go still but I’m happy about that."
Along with O’Farrell in the forward line, Niall McCarthy made a sterling contribution and picked off two points in the first 22 minutes of the second half as Cork stretched their lead.
He was also heavily involved in switching Cork’s point of attack, which was instrumental in throwing the Wexford defence out of shape.
Paudie O’Sullivan’s ingenuity also helped in that regard. It wasn’t until 49th minute that he scored but some of his touches were delightful and key to putting the opposition on the back foot.
Cork looked totally in command after the break, although had Lyng’s shot not hit the side-netting in the 53rd minute it may have made for a more awkward finish.
Gareth Sinnott’s 66th-minute goal had an air of consolation about it as it only served to narrow the gap to six points and sting Cork into firing over the last four points of the game.
They’re learning on their feet, this Cork team.
Their defence has room for improvement but the side’s stick work and ability to put their finishers in good scoring positions were the fundamentals in delivering yet another scoring aggregate in the high 20s.
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan 0-8 (6f), L O’Farrell 2-2, N McCarthy 0-4, A Nash 1-1 (1-0p, 0-1f), C Lehane, P Cronin, P O’Sullivan 0-2 each, L McLoughlin, C Naughton, J Coughlan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Wexford: D Lyng 1-3 (0-2 sl, 0-1f), G Sinnott 1-2, J Guiney 0-5 (2f, 1 65), R Jacob, H Kehoe 0-2 each, D Redmond, P Morris, L McGovern 0-1 each.
Subs for Cork: D Sweetnam for McLoughlin (49), C Naughton for Lehane (inj, 59), S Ó hAilpín for Egan (62), J Coughlan for N McCarthy (66), S Moylan for C McCarthy (70).
Subs for Wexford: L McGovern for H Kehoe (43), S Murphy for Morris (62), S Banville for Quigley (67).
Red card: D Redmond (second yellow, 73).
Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).