Tour grinder Damien McGrane got a little help from his friends as he fired a sparkling 65 to light up the Irish Open leaderboard.

The Kells king, 39, left major winners Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell in the shade with another grinding performance.

And he confessed that playing with pals like the triple major winning Dubliner and the new US Open champion made it easier to go out and perform for the massive Irish galleries.

The leading Irishman, a shot ahead of 66 shooters Darren Clarke and Michael Hoey, McGrane said: “Some people are tough to play with but Pádraig is easy to play with.  He’s been a friend and supporter for a long time and I appreciate that.

“I would sooner play with friends of mine like Pádraig, and how we play and how we score is irrelevant. 

“We are here to do the best we can and obviously in such good company, it was easy to find a score there.”

McGrane racked up six birdies in a  bogey free effort - the same number as McDowell and Harrington put together.

Yet while he admits that he doesn’t know the Ulsterman as well, he revealed that the good vibes in the threeball helped him get his Irish Open bid off to a flying start.

He said: “Obviously, I was in the pro shop in Wexford and Graeme was in America doing his thing, so we certainly came different routes. 

“I wouldn’t know Graeme as well as I would know Pádraig but it was good out there.  And we had good banter between the three of us and we enjoyed the spectacle and we enjoyed the support.”

One of the toughest competitors on tour, McGrane shrugged off his bad shots and took advantage of some good luck to grind out a sizzling 65.

At the par-five seventh his approach shot ricocheted off rocks near the green but he got up and down for his birdie by holing a tricky left to right putt from eight feet.

He said: “I hit a few shots that were pretty rubbish, really, and then I backed them up with a decent shot, and that’s what I needed to do.

“You take the rough with the smooth.  I hit some good shots and didn’t work out and obviously I hit one or two rogue shots and managed to recover, but that’s golf.”

Hoey has had a nightmare year since he disqualified himself at Baltray last season for having an extra club in his bag.

Forced to take six weeks off to rest earlier this season because he felt so tired during rounds, he was all smiles yesterday as he carded a bogey free 66 to finish just two shots off the lead.

Hoey beamed: “I’m really happy to have no bogeys.  I’ve probably only had ten rounds in my life without a bogey, so the more of those the better.”

The Ulsterman, 31, turned in one under but then caught fire on the way home with birdies at the 10th, 11th, 13th and par-five 16th.

That was a major achievement for a man who’s struggled with fatigue.

Hoey said: “I was probably wearing myself out, I’m so hard on myself. I definitely had a virus and that wore me down.

“I’ve just had the rest I definitely needed so, hopefully that’s gone now.”