O’Neil was part of the team, which won against Derby in the Championship play-off final last season and he was impressed by what he saw from the Rams.
“Derby were my favourites at the start of the season having played against them last year at Wembley and a couple of times last season,” said O’Neil.
“I thought they would be strong under McClaren this year and they’ve proven to be so.”
Derby are one of the sides fighting in and around the top of the table, with the unique situation currently of four teams all on the same tally of 66 points.
The Rams will be keen to avoid the potential lottery of the play-offs all over again this season, which stresses the significance of an automatic promotion place.
A good run of results over the next few games could help the club create a gap between themselves and the other teams, with everything still to play for.
Some Derby fans may even consider the club a little lucky that they haven’t been more harshly done by in terms of their recent blip (two defeats and a draw) costing them more over their position near the top.
Next up for Derby is a trip to Norwich and O’Neil is one player who will be wary of what the Rams are capable of this coming weekend.