A CHANCE match playing in goal for his school hockey team led to James Fortnam's talent being spotted and years later he has now been selection to represent Wales in the Commonwealth Games.

Fortnam, who grew up near Ledbury, had played as a goalkeeper in football and wicket-keeper in his younger years. While studying at John Masefield School, Fortnam was asked to fill in for the regular hockey goalkeeper who wanted to play outfield.

Head of Youth Development at Leominster Hockey Club Steve Mumford was watching the match and encouraged Fortnam to take up the position more permanently.

"I had played in goal in football and it was no different in the terms of method, said Fortnam.

"They are both about being involved in the game and a lot of the outcome of the game is on your performance. The excitement comes with it, I am a bit mad as the ball is being hit at over 100 miles per hour."

From there he came through the junior ranks of Leominster Hockey Club before making his first team debut as a 15 year old, helping the club to a string of strong performances including promotion in his final season.

“James had a clear natural ability from the start with his quick reactions and his fearlessness between the posts but it was also his fantastic attitude and drive to learn that set him apart," added Mumford.

"It is great to see another example of a talented youngster who we as a club have helped in their journey to top level sport."

While attending Hereford Cathedral Sixth Form, Fortnam played hockey alongside Knighton's Phoebe Richards, who has also been selected to represent Wales Women's squad in her second Commonwealth Games.

Since moving to Cardiff for university Fortnam continued his development and has been part of the successful Cardiff & Met first team keeper for a number of seasons, who play in the second tier of national hockey.

Now 27 years old Fortnam trains seven nights a week alongside working in finance and accounts.

The goalkeeper's performances in club hockey earned him a spot in the Wales national team two years ago.

After successfully gaining promotion into the A Division of the European league this season the country are now ranked inside the top 20 in the world and just qualified for the Commonwealth Games.

"The Commonwealth Games is one of the biggest things you can do," added Fortnam.

"The only other thing you can do is qualify for the World Cup which is a few years off yet. It will be a really difficult competition level as we are in a group with India, Malaysia, Pakistan and England.

"They are all in the top 10 ranking in the world where as we are around 20th ranked but have risen from 35th in the last two years.

"If you told me two years ago that I was going to the Commonwealth Games I wouldn't have believed you," added Fortnam.

"To get into the tournament we had to do well in the European League and then rely on the results of other countries outside Europe going our way. I went to watch the Commonwealth Games four years ago in Glasgow and it was a case of it not seeming achievable at the time but since then everything has clicked into place and allowed it to happen.

"It has been a real challenge and four years of a work and it has been a huge sacrifice. It will be a great opportunity to play against the best teams in the world and we have got there on our own merit.

"We are looking to make a good account of ourselves on the big stage and are capable of causing an upset.

"It will be like nothing we have played in before with the grand opening ceremony and the multi-sport environment.

Despite competing against the best teams in Europe at international competitions to qualify the Welsh athletes were only part-funded by Hockey Wales and players had to contribute out of their own pockets to compete.

"A lot of the training and matches we do to get better is self funded so it is a huge financial commitment. Although our trips away are hugely subsidised we still have to contribute."