But the 33-year-old has proved all his doubters wrong after making an earlier than expected recovery to play his part in the quarter-final thrashing of Cardiff Blues and the semi-final win over ASM Clermont Auvergne.
Last weekend's 19-15 victory over the French high fliers in Bordeaux set up an all-Irish Heineken Cup Final against Ulster at Twickenham on May 19 and O'Driscoll admits that his personal trials and tribulations this season made that particular success even more satisfying.
"All the hard work of coming back from injury and from surgery is to play in those big games and to test yourself," said O'Driscoll, who was featuring in just his fifth match back following a six-month absence.
"It's nice when the test comes out on the right side and you get a positive result: it makes all that hard graft worthwhile.
"It's hugely fulfilling to be able to play and win in those types of games because that's not for the faint-hearted.
"It's hard to rank it but it feels great because it was one of those games that was really going to test us as a side and question whether we were up to winning in France and it's great to get through that.
"They're probably the best team in France at the moment and now that they've won their first French championship this was the next thing that they were after. They really wanted to lift that Heineken Cup."
O'Drsicoll has already tasted European glory on two previous occasions, playing a central role in the 2009 win over Leicester Tigers at Murrayfield and in last season's comeback victory over Northampton in Cardiff.
The prospect of earning a hat-trick of Heineken Cup titles is hugely appealing for one of this generation's star performers but O'Driscoll is refusing to get carried away with Leinster's form or their chances of celebrating yet again in London in just over a fortnight.
"To give ourselves the chance to win three in four years is great but that's all it is - an opportunity," added O'Driscoll.
"There's still a lot of playing left and I'm sure that Ulster will think that their team can do a job on us.
"We shouldn't have been only four points up with five minutes to go against Clermont, and that's what would annoy me.
"We put ourselves in good position, with good turnovers and kicks into the corners, but we malfunctioned a little at set-pieces at times and that kind of hurt us."