Damien McGrane ended day one of the Madeira Islands Open in a tie for the lead after firing a terrific five-under par round of 66.


The Kells man’s round included seven birdies and means that he shares top spot with Swedish veteran Joakim Haeggman.


His impressive opening effort also included the perfect finish -  a holed bunker shot at the ninth, his 18th, and he was understandably delighted with his day’s work.


He said: "It was a spectacular finish because it was an incredibly difficult bunker shot, to see it trickle across the green and drop in was special.


"I played great today and I hit a lot of good shots. I made only two bogeys and they were really down to the wind as opposed to bad shots.  


"I’m just looking forward to tomorrow now.”  


On a wet and wild day on Porto Santo the players, especially those out later in the day, had to battle hard against the elements and McGrane admitted his round had been a struggle at times.


"It was extremely difficult out there because the wind was howling all day," McGrane said. "There was no easy way to do things, at times we were hitting woods into the long par 3’s and still having to chip and putt from 40 yards away.”


McGrane certainly showed no signs of rust following his three week break, opening with four birdies in his first five holes.


Two further birdies were wiped out by two dropped shots, before he closed his round in spectacular fashion with the final hole chip-in.


McGrane only needed to wield his putter on 20 occasions during the opening round and is now in the perfect position to mount a challenge for the title and the accompanying winners cheque for just over €116,000.


Ulsterman Michael Hoey made a promising start to his week by recording a round of 69 to leave him in a tie for 6th place on two-under par.


Hoey, ranked just inside the world’s top 300, is making only his third European Tour start of 2009 but was pleased with his opening round.  


He said: "I am pretty satisfied with today, I hit the ball really well and I am happy with how my game is right now.


"I actually three-putted the last so I should maybe be three under but I would have taken anything around level par before I went out."  


The 30-year old’s game seems in good shape so far this year, with high finishes in South Africa and Bali behind him. and he’s happy with the way his season is progressing.


"I’m making cuts and shooting good scores at weekends, that's what earns you money and helps build your confidence.


"This year I am taking a much more laid back approach to the game and it seems to be paying off.” he said.  


Hoey is joined on two-under by Michael McGeady, but it was a disappointing day for the other Irishmen in the field.


Jonathan Caldwell could only manage a five-over par 76 while Simon Thornton finds himself well down the field after shooting an 83, which included two triple bogeys and just a solitary birdie.