Damien McGrane plays out of the rough on the 10th. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieDamien McGrane is just four shots off the lead entering the final round of the Open de Andalucía Costa del Sol.

But while that’s the good news, the bad news is that he is just one of 26 players within five shots of Spain’s Eduardo De La Riva at Aloha Golf Club near Marbella.

The unheralded Spaniard, the halfway leader, fired a 68 to remain a shot in front on 12 under par with England’s Simon Khan and Italian teenager Matteo Manassero his nearest challengers.

But so tightly packed is the leaderboard that McGrane’s one under 71 left him in an eight-way tie for 12th place on eight under.

The Kells man birdied the par-five first but then had 17 pars in a row to slip 10 spots down the leaderboard from joint second overnight.

Gareth Maybin was four under for his round after seven holes but played the remainder in one over for a 69 that left him tied 20th on seven under.

Shane Lowry made the biggest move of the Irish challenges, sandwiching an eagle two at the third between a pair of birdies to be four under after four, eventually signing for a 67 that moved him up 21 spots to 27th on six under.

Michael Hoey went the other way, falling back from seventh to 39th on four under after a 74.

The world No 94 birdied the fourth and eagled the par-five fifth to move into the top three but made a triple bogey seven at the sixth and never recovered.

Simon Thornton fell 10 places to 51st after a level par 72 but veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez was still on track to replace Des Smyth as the European Tour’s oldest winner.

The 48 year old fired an unlikely 69 to trail De la Riva by just two shots on 10 under alongside David Lynn and Hennie Otto.

After birdies at the 14th and 15th he produced one of the shots of the day at the 16th, sending a fairway wood up and over the trees and to within five feet before sinking his eagle putt.

“Today I started like a donkey and finished like an Andalusian horse,” he said. “On the first nine holes I was expecting things to happen but the course gave us nothing.

“On the back nine I said to my caddie: ‘Don’t worry, we are trying to make it happen,’ and it happened on 14.

“I put my drive in a divot and I had to blade it a little bit. I managed to put it at the back left of the green, and then I holed that putt. The unlucky lie was my turning point - I made birdie, birdie eagle and that made my round.”