But O'Driscoll and his team-mates are ready now to restore those reputations and the faith of the fans in the side.
"I couldn't imagine leaving it like that. I crave success and I crave winning, and I guess what comes with that is craving an upbeat public opinion," admitted the centre, who turned 29 on Monday.
"It's not nice people not thinking highly of the Irish rugby team, so all of those things point to having an ambition to be a big success again.
"We have a certain element of confidence in the side. We know that when we play well, we're a hard side to beat. It's just a matter of finding the form that we showed in last season's Six Nations but which passed us by in the World Cup.
"The players have a point to prove only to themselves. You will always have hype and speculation but you can't control those things.
"What you can control are your own performances. We are capable of great performances - we just need to produce them.
"We'll be there or thereabouts in certain games and hopefully it will come down to the final weekend with us still in the shake-up," he added.
O'Driscoll injured his ankle during Leinster's bruising Heineken Cup clash with Leicester Tigers last Saturday but trained successfully with the Irish squad on UCD's all-weather pitch on Tuesday.
The Dubliner, who is set to make his 80th appearance for Ireland against Italy on February 2, is tired of runners-up spots in the Six Nations and while there was much to celebrate in garnering three Triple Crowns in four years, the championship title is the one piece of silverware that really counts.
"It's disappointing we haven't won a Six Nations, of course we're striving for silverware. It's been great to win three Triple Crowns in four seasons but we didn't win the title and that's what we want to do," O'Driscoll insisted.
"It feels that at times we've probably left something behind but there's always the current season to put that right."