Sunderland face North East rivals Newcastle United on Sunday in the 147th meeting between the sides.
This will be O’Neill’s first game in charge of Sunderland for a derby at the Stadium of Light but he is well aware of the magnitude of the fixture.
He said: “It is very important to them (the fans). I want to emphasise that this is just as important to me and to the players.”
O’Neill should lack no ammunition for his team-talk after comments in the press from Newcastle’s Steven Taylor.
When asked if any Sunderland players would get in Newcastle’s side, Taylor replied: “Not even one player, that is the quality we possess.
Asked whether he would ever consider playing for Sunderland, Taylor added: "I would rather collect stamps than stick on that shirt!"
O’Neill says his side are prepared for the “intense” derby but has stressed the importance of discipline.
Sunderland had Stephane Sessegnon and Lee Cattermole sent off in the 1-1 draw at St James’ Park in April.
O’Neill said: “I’m not sure you can overemphasise the importance of discipline in a game like this.”
There are some injury concerns for the home side ahead of the derby but James McClean (groin) is available despite missing two World Cup Qualifiers for Republic of Ireland.
Defender Titus Bramble (hip) will have a late fitness test to face his former club and Phil Bardsley (ankle) is back in contention for his first Premier League action of the season.
Lee Cattermole will complete his three match ban after his red card at MK Dons in the Capital One Cup.
The game is live on Sky Sports One HD from 1pm on Sunday.