Commenced his rugby career with Cork Con where he won several Munster Cup medals before moving to Lansdowne where he made a huge contribution to the First XV which he captained in 1976/77. He won Leinster Senior cup and League medals to add to his collection from Munster.
He captained the Ireland B team against France in 1975 but probably his biggest rugby achievement was as captain of the Munster team that beat the All Blacks at Thomond Park in 1978 by 12 points to nil, the only Irish team ever to beat New Zealand. Tony Ward was his out half that day and three other Lansdowne men, Moss Keane, Donal Spring, and Pat Whelan were also on the team. Donal led the team from the front. Edmund Van Esbeck noted that “Canniffe was a superb captain and tactician at scrum half.”
He finished his long and distinguished playing career with Lansdowne and subsequently assisted in coaching several successful Lansdowne teams.
Position Scrum Half
First cap v Wales 21/2/1976
Last cap v England 6/3/1976