After making his Munster debut at the age of just 19 in a 49-17 thrashing of a touring Morocco XV at Thomond Park, the lock forward found regular playing time difficult to come by in the intervening years.
O'Driscoll played 16 games in the 2002/03 season, including two appearances against Perpignan in the Heineken Cup, but only played four matches in the second half of the season and by the time summer came rolling around, he needed a fresh challenge.
"It was a combination of things really, I just wanted a change and I hadn't been playing as much as I would have liked to over here so I ended up looking abroad and Perpignan came in for me," said O'Driscoll.
"I didn't really want to go to the UK so I was happy enough to go to France.
"I learned a lot in my time there, there are many similarities between Perpignan and Munster but there are also big differences obviously with the French culture.
"The big thing for me was playing rugby in a different country, everything about it was different, on the playing side and socially as well."
Perpignan travel to Thomond Park with just one away win to their name so far this season, with the Catalan side only winning twice away from home in the Top 14 last year.
So, what's the reason for the travel sickness?
"That's not just down to Perpignan, that's just the French way," said O'Driscoll.
"A lot of the French sides just wouldn't have very good away form, it's normally a given that you win all your home games and you try and pick up a few wins away from home.
"Once you do that you'll probably make it into the top 6 so, for whatever reason, that's just the French way.
"They don't go out to lose away games, but they certainly don't put as much emphasis on them as they do on their home games," he added.
Following Sunday's clash, Munster face a trip to Perpignan and the Stade Aimé Giral, a venue they have visited on numerous occasions.
Their last trip was probably the most memorable as they produced one of their best ever away performances to blow away the hosts to win on a scoreline of 37-14.
And O'Driscoll likens the famous ground to Sunday's setting.
"It's very similar to Thomond Park in my opinion, it's noisy and the supporters get behind you really well. They're good, knowledgeable supporters and they get stuck in just like they do at home so it's a great place to play rugby.
"It's great how much passion that both sets of supporters have for the game, rugby is huge over there as well, they have very passionate supporters that always give you a fair crack.
"In general, the rugby ethos and philosophy in the clubs would be quite similar too."
O'Driscoll returned to the province in 2005 and played a key role as Munster finally secured their first Heineken Cup win, playing in eight of the nine games and coming off the bench in the final against Biarritz.
The Corkman was an integral squad member again two years later as a second Heineken Cup was secured against Toulouse at the Millennium Stadium, coming off the bench to help close out a nail-biting 16-13 win.
The 35-year-old retired from the game in 2012 after an illustrious career that also included 23 Ireland caps but made an unexpected, albeit brief, return last weekend for the Barbarians against Fiji.
His inclusion in the Barbarians squad 18 months after his retirement surprised everyone, not least the man himself.
"I got the call on Tuesday but I politely turned it down, I hadn't played rugby in 18 months so it wasn't something that I was expecting!
"In the end they basically said they were struggling badly to get people so I said I'd sit on the bench but I didn't want to be playing so I told them I'd be the last player on the pitch, regardless of who got injured.
"I think they struggle at this time of year because it's outside the international window and they were finding it difficult to get players released.
"It wasn't something I was expecting but luckily I didn't have to come on for any length of time, I came on for about two minutes which was enough.
"It was good craic, I'd played twice for the Baa-baas before so I knew what it was all about.
"The Barbarians is about enjoying rugby, it was good to meet Jean de Villiers again, who of course was with Munster for a year, he was captaining the Barbarians."
O'Driscoll is still involved in the game as part of the coaching team at Cork Con and is looking forward to watching his two old sides in action on Sunday.
"It will be good to meet up with one or two of the lads again and obviously I'll be supporting the Munster boys so it will be a great occasion. "
Click here to purchase tickets for Munster v Perpignan on Sunday, December 8 (ko 12:45pm).