AFTER spending a few years in cold storage, former Sunderland man Roy O'Donovan has the bite back in his game thanks to a successful loan spell at Scottish side Hibernians.
The league table still looks less than pretty for Hibs as Pat Fenlon's side remain in the bottom two, but they are four points clear of the automatic relegation spot and are also enjoying some great form in the Scottish Cup, and are through to a semi-final meeting with Aberdeen on the back of last weekend's win over Ayr United, O'Donovan one of the scorers for Hibs - the second goal in seven games for the 26-year-old.
There was a time when O'Donovan played against bigger opponents than Ayr United, as he made 17 Premier League appearances in one season for Roy Keane's Sunderland just after his move from Cork City in 2007.
But since that debut season with the Black Cats of 2007/08, nothing happened for O'Donovan at Sunderland as he needed four loan spells to get first-team action.
Even a permanent move to Coventry City in 2010 failed to work out as planned as O'Donovan managed just six league starts in 18 months, and the former 'B' international admits that he lost his appetite for the game.
"Your confidence takes a knock when things don't go your way and your motivation starts to wane, I know that happened to me," O'Donovan told the Evening Herald. "It's not that you fall out of love with the game but all you want to do is play games and when you're not being picked by your manager you do lose your appetite.
"The last few years have been frustrating for me. I'd played something like 100 games in two years for Cork City but since I came over to England five years ago I've made nothing like that in terms of appearances, and I'm the kind of player who needs to play week in, week out.
"My whole game is based on sharpness and fitness and if I'm stuck on the bench all the time it's hard to stay sharp," he explained.
"This is the best spell I've had in a long while as Coventry seemed to just grind to a halt for me.
"I started off the season in the Coventry team but then I found myself out of the picture, then I got injured and I just haven't played as much football over the last 18 months as I'd have liked.
"All I ever wanted to do was play football and Pat Fenlon has given me that chance here at Hibs. I knew Pat from the League of Ireland and playing against his teams so I always had respect for him and he's been great for me.
"The move here has gone well for me, but it's not just about me, I want to help Hibs drag themselves out of the position we're in. We're four points clear of the bottom team and we have a Cup semi-final to look forward to so it's all going well," added the Corkman, who has joined Hibs on loan until the end of the season, with a full season to run on his contract at Coventry after that.
Back in 2007, O'Donovan's form with Cork made him the most sought-after player in Ireland, with Fulham and Sunderland battling to sign him.
He made an instant impact at Sunderland and got into Keane's team but was forced to run down the clock for the last three years of his contract, failing to make another appearance for the Black Cats after that debut season.
"That first season was great for me, playing against Chelsea and Manchester United," he says.
"My one regret was that I never really got another crack at it following that first season. I went out on loan and maybe I should have stayed at Sunderland. But you live and learn and things happen for a reason -- hopefully I am getting the rewards now."