As the 59-year-old sets about the task of assessing the January transfer market following a hugely encouraging start to his reign at the Stadium of Light, one man has emerged from the ranks as a possible solution to a long-standing problem.
Predecessor Steve Bruce spent much time and effort attempting to lure former Newcastle left-winger Charles N'Zogbia to Wearside from Wigan, but ultimately lost the race for the £9.5million Frenchman's signature to Aston Villa.
However, with injuries limiting his options in recent weeks, O'Neill has turned to 22-year-old compatriot James McClean, and has been richly rewarded.
The Ulsterman said: "I couldn't be more pleased with him. He has come in and he has been exceptional.
"He came on in the game when perhaps maybe we seemed to be chasing lost causes against Blackburn and lit the place up.
"His emergence has been fantastic."
McClean, a £350,000 summer signing from Derry City, made his debut as a substitute in the Blackburn game - O'Neill's first in charge - on December 11, and the pace and direct approach he brought to the side has been cited by many as the inspiration for a late fightback which transformed a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory.
He has since forced his way into O'Neill's starting line-up for the Barclays Premier League victories over leaders Manchester City and Wigan since the turn of the year, and is likely to retain his place for Sunday's FA Cup third round trip to npower Championship Peterborough.
His willingness to run at defenders has already established him as a crowd favourite, although his manager has also been impressed by his work-rate and sense of responsibility.
O'Neill said: "He can go for it, but he also works back and he will do defensive jobs for you. He is just learning the game.
"He has just played two consecutive Premier League games in 48 hours, and I am quite sure that wasn't something he would have been thinking about maybe four or five weeks ago."
For the youngster himself, the strides he has made in recent weeks have helped to fulfil a long-held dream
McClean said: "I'm enjoying every minute of it. Now that I'm playing more, I'm enjoying every minute.
"It's something I always dreamt of growing up, so I just want to push on now and progress week in, week out.
"I'm thankful the manager has given me the chance to show what I can do, and it's up to me to repay the faith he has shown in me."
Sunderland's improving league form will send them to London Road on a high, although O'Neill knows from personal experience that their task this weekend will be just as difficult as what has gone before with Peterborough intent on claiming a Premier League scalp.
He said: "When I was managing Aston Villa a few years ago, we were drawn away in the third round against Gillingham, and it was a really difficult afternoon for us.
"We had players who were playing for England playing that day, and Gillingham caused us all sorts of problems all afternoon.
"We finally scrambled home in the game, and that's the nature of it. You wouldn't even have to tell me it's going to be hard, it's going to be exceptionally difficult for us.
"Our attitude has to be right, but there's no reason for our attitude to be wrong considering it's been right for so long so far."